| April 25
April 25 A northern stretch of the Illinois
River may remain closed to commercial shipping traffic for
several weeks as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers works to
repair a lock damaged during recent heavy flooding, the Corps
said on Thursday.
Flooding on the waterway has also halted the loading of corn
and soybean barges at Illinois River terminals, which are
delivery points for CME grain futures contracts. That prompted
the exchange to declare force majeure at most terminals on
About 60 percent of U.S. grain exports are transported via
the Mississippi River and its tributaries, including the
Illinois, from farm areas in the Midwest to export facilities at
the Gulf of Mexico. The Illinois River disruptions considerably
restrict the flow of grain from much of the No. 2 corn and
soybean producing state.
The damage to the Marseilles Lock and Dam in northern
Illinois suggests a portion of the waterway may remain closed
well after flood waters recede.
"As soon as conditions permit, the Corps will perform
engineering analyses for use in developing repair and recovery
plans, ensuring that the dam can be returned to an operational
status as soon as possible," said Tom Heinold, deputy chief of
the Operations Division for the Corps' Rock Island district.
Five of the lock's eight gates, damaged last week when seven
barges broke free from a tow in flood-swollen currents and
struck the dam, are not able to close fully and maintain the
pool of water above the dam.
As a result, the section of the river from Marseilles to the
Dresden Island lock upriver was expected to drain and become too
shallow for barges and boats as soon as this weekend, the Army
"Probably beginning next week we're going to start emergency
repair work to get a rock dike out there and get work started on
those gates to get them functioning to at least maintain the
pool," said Army Corps spokesman Ron Fournier.
"How much of the pool we're going to lose is not determined
yet, but we're not going to be able to maintain the nine-foot
depth pool," he said.
A 144-mile stretch of the waterway from mile marker 43.2
south of Florence, Illinois, to mile marker 187.3 near Lacon,
Illinois, remains closed to all traffic due to record flooding,
the U.S. Coast Guard said on Thursday.
Eight locks on the Mississippi River from central Iowa just
north of St. Louis remain closed due to high water, but the
river has largely crested and all locks were likely to reopen by
early next week.
Lock 19 at Keokuk, Iowa, reopened on Wednesday and locks 16
and 18 at Muscatine, Iowa, and Gladstone, Illinois, could reopen
on Friday, Fournier said.
The latest river forecasts from the National Weather Service
suggest the rest, from lock 17 at New Boston, Illinois, to lock
25 in Winfield, Missouri, could reopen over the weekend or on
Monday or Tuesday.
The shipping disruptions come just three months after
record- or near-record-low water on the Mississippi River
threatened to halt navigation along a key stretch between St.
Louis and the confluence of the Ohio River.
Grain prices at export terminals at the Gulf of Mexico
climbed this week to the highest level in at least a month as
the closures severed the supply pipeline linking production
areas with the Gulf export market.
(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Dan Grebler)