CHICAGO Numerous lock
closures and a trio of barge accidents have kept shipping along
the Illinois and Mississippi rivers at a standstill as flooding
remains a threat to the waterways, with no immediate relief in
The U.S. Coast Guard found no
damage following an inspection at the Illinois Rivers
Marseilles lock and dam, where salvage operations have begun
after three vessels broke free and crashed into the structure
April 18 (
amm.com, April 19).
"The high water and fast
currents make it all a challenge," Nashville, Tenn.-based
Ingram Barge Co. spokesman Keel Hunt told AMM.
Meanwhile, barges also have
broken free on the flood-swollen Mississippi River. Mike
Petersen, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
St. Louis District, said that 89 barges broke free April 20 at
St. Louis harbor, and the river there remains closed.
"Some of (the barges) sank. One
is in the navigation channel but under 20 feet of water, so
its not an immediate threat to mariners," he said,
although the wreck has been cordoned off for safety
Petersen said the Army Corps of
Engineers activated its emergency operations center this past
week, which is sending crews to assist levee districts and
check on dam safety.
Meanwhile, downstream in
Vicksburg, Miss., 30 barges carrying coal and grain broke away
from a tow April 21, Coast Guard Petty Officer Ryan Tippets
told AMM. "The lead barge struck a railroad bridge and
all 30 broke away," he said. "One has sunk parallel to the
navigation channel, two are partially submerged and one is
resting atop a river dike."
There is a safety zone in effect
at Vicksburg. "No river traffic can go through unless directly
involved in recovery efforts," Tippets said.
Tippets could not estimate when
the channel might reopen but confirmed that "salvage operations
are going on now." As of April 22, six vessels heading upriver
and three heading downriver were stopped.
Two of four closed locks have
reopened on the Illinois River: T.J. OBrien at Chicago
and Dresden Island south of Channahon, Ill., a spokeswoman for
the Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District told
AMM. The Marseilles and Starved Rock locks remain
closed, she said.
Mississippi River lock and dams
16 through 22, along with 24 and 25, remain closed, Petersen
said, to protect critical components and allow the Army Corps
of Engineers "to restore service quickly once the flood waters
recede." He did not know when they would reopen.
The forecast doesnt appear
to be improving in the coming days, Coast Guard Lt. Colin
Fogarty said, with the Illinois River beginning to rise at
"Peoria should be at 29.3 feet
at 7 p.m. (April 22), go up to about 30 feet and maintain that
high until April 26," according to the Rock Island District
spokeswoman, well above the record high of 28.8 feet."
Keystone Steel & Wire Co. in
Peoria, is "up and running in all departments," president Vic
Stirnaman said. However, "we cannot use barges until the river
gets past the crest."
Sections of the Illinois River
and many parts of the Mississippi River have yet to crest to
flood stage, with more rainfall expected through April 23. An
85-mile stretch of the Mississippi, from mile markers 70 to
155, was closed April 22, Fogarty said.
"(The) Illinois will continue to
rise, and we expect more precipitation over the greater
Midwest," he said. "We will get 1 to 3 inches of rain over the
Illinois and Mississippi river basins and 6 inches of snow on
the Missouri River in Nebraska and South Dakota. This is
looking like a heck of a flood season."