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Flooding, accident force lock closures

Keywords: Tags  Flooding, Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, lock closures, Rock Island and St. Louis Districts, Cap Grossman, Dan Becker, scrap flows, Keel Hunt Ingram Barge

CHICAGO — Four locks on the Illinois River and eight locks on the Mississippi River closed April 18 and 19 due to record flooding, with at least two more closures imminent, as shippers, barge and terminal operators secured their assets but expected to encounter delays.

“It was like something out of the Bible,” Grossman Iron & Steel Co. president Cap Grossman said of record rainfall in the Midwest. “We’re holding our breath down here.”

The Illinois River’s T.J. O’Brien, Starved Rock, Dresden Island and Marseilles lock and dams were closed, while Locks 15 through 22 were closed on the upper Mississippi, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Rock Island District told AMM.

“A lot of those (locks) will be reaching record flood stages, some tonight, some tomorrow (April 19 and 20),” she said.

At the Marseilles lock and dam, the water was 6 inches above the lock gate, flooding the surrounding area and forcing the evacuation of Army Corps of Engineers staff.

Meanwhile, four barges sank while others crashed into the lock at Marseilles when they broke loose from a tow.

“Nine barges piled into the dam. Two were removed by industry tows, four sunk (and) some are up against the dam,” the Rock Island District spokeswoman said. “Nothing is being done to secure the remaining barges because it’s too dangerous,” and the Army Corps of Engineers isn’t sure when it will be safe to send engineers and divers in to assess the damage.

Keel Hunt, a spokesman for Nashville, Tenn.-based Ingram Barge Co., confirmed that one of its boats was pushing 12 or 13 barges when there was a breakaway.
“Activity is under way to corral them and stabilize that,” Hunt said, adding that there were no injuries.

“We are experiencing flood-level waters all throughout the Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri rivers,” U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Colin Fogarty told AMM. The Coast Guard “is monitoring growing queues (of vessels) at the locks and dams all throughout the Illinois and upper Mississippi rivers. Those queues are growing, (but the goal is to) effectively facilitate navigation, get products to market and keep the economy moving.”

“The river north of us is already closed for traffic,” said Dan Becker of Venice, Ill.-based scrapyard Becker Iron & Metal Inc. “We anticipate the river to be closed off by Sunday.”

If flooding persists, “it will interrupt barge traffic in our area for the last week of April orders. If that’s the case and the market is anticipated to go down, orders may get canceled and inbound supply to mills will take a hit,” said Becker, whose scrapyard is just north of St. Louis.

St. Louis-based scrapyard Grossman Iron and Steel isn’t getting many calls from customers about the impact of flooding yet, but Cap Grossman surmised it “will become a problem for scrap collection and scrap flow” throughout rural areas.
“We are in flood stage at the upper part of our district, where the Illinois River comes in,” said Mike Petersen, spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers’ St. Louis District. “We will shut down Locks 24 and 25.”

The Mississippi River at St. Louis is 20 feet above where it was last month, he said, and the shipping industry “is well aware of the closures.”

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