Cash Market Moves

Three 2019 Lock Closures on Illinois River Will Delay Barge Traffic

Mary Kennedy
By  Mary Kennedy , DTN Basis Analyst
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The Starved Rock Lock and Dam on the Illinois River is one of the areas scheduled for a full 14-day closure, beginning Sept. 21, for repairs. (Photo courtesy of USACE)

The Illinois Waterway provides a navigable connection between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River and includes eight lock and dam sites that are long overdue for significant repairs, notes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). In order to facilitate repairs, the USACE Rock Island District developed a consolidated repair schedule, which includes a short closure to locks in 2019 followed by two extended closures in 2020 and 2023. The closures are scheduled to take place simultaneously to lessen impact to commercial navigation as much as possible.

The current 9-foot channel lock and dam system on the Illinois River was built in the 1930s with an estimated life span of 50 years. "The structures have long outlived their life expectancy but continue to operate 24/7 due to the hard work and dedication of the men and women charged with maintaining the structures," USACE noted. "Nearly half of the District's employees are involved in some part of the maintenance or operation of the lock and dam and navigation system."

Dennis Shannon, Rock Island District manager for the Illinois Waterway, spoke at a meeting dealing with the lock closures sponsored by the Illinois Farm Bureau in Peoria, Illinois. Shannon said that the locks and dams on the Illinois River are "old and in need of repair."

Shannon said that, "the Illinois River is basically open year-round, making it difficult to do repairs, unlike the Upper Mississippi River Locks that close for the winter, allowing repairs to be done during that time." Shannon noted that the work done this summer is preparatory work for the major closures scheduled in July 2020.

"The Sept. 21 closure added the Lockport Lock and Dam after it was discovered the lower miter gates there were not functioning properly," added Shannon. A link to the entire meeting is available at the end of this story.

All lock and dam facilities on the Illinois Waterway have a single lock chamber for passing vessels. During the scheduled closures, no vessels will be able to pass through the affected locks in the 2019 closure, noted the USACE on their website.

This is the latest 2019 schedule posted by the USACE on their website:

STARVED ROCK & MARSEILLES LOCK AND DAM –- BULKHEAD RECESS INSTALLATION

-- Partial Closure scheduled June 1-July 3 (completed) and July 8-Sept. 12 (Updated 9/6/2019).

-- Locks operational from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. with a 70-ft width restriction and no ability to pull unpowered barges. Unrestricted lockage period from 6 p.m. Sept. 12 through 6 a.m. Sept. 21 (Updated 8/28/2019).

-- Full Closure scheduled Sept. 21-Oct. 5 (Updated 8/2/2019).

LOCKPORT LOCK AND DAM –- MITER GATE AND VERTICAL LIFT GATE REPAIRS

-- Full Closure scheduled Sept. 21-Oct.5 (Updated 8/2/2019).

When the partial closure started in June, barge lines were not allowed to pass during daylight hours, slowing them from getting to St. Louis. American Commercial Barge Line (ACBL) noted earlier this summer when the partial closures started that, "A typical round trip from St. Louis to Chicago and back normally takes 10 days and it is now taking upwards of 27-30 days."

However, USACE is working with the barge companies by allowing barges to move unrestricted more than once this summer with the most recent occurring from 18:00 Aug 30 through 06:00 Sept. 3, with no daylight closures imposed. Then, as noted above, an eight-day unrestricted opening will begin on Sept. 12 and last through 06:00 on Sept. 21 when the full closure occurs. ACBL also noted that tows will still be restricted to 70-feet wide during that time.

Even more locks and dams are scheduled to close on the Illinois River beginning in July 2020, with some of the work not expected to be done until Oct. 29, 2020. It is that major closure in 2020 that could have some impact on grain and fertilizer shipments, but until the timing and length of the closure is decided for certain, there is no way to predict the cost to shippers and farmers. There is a schedule posted on the USACE Rock Island District website, but that schedule is subject to change.

You can see it here: https://www.mvr.usace.army.mil/…

Questions concerning the scheduled 2020 lock closures may be directed to 309-794-5729 or CEMVR-CC@usace.army.mil

On June 3, 2019, an amendment to CBOT Delivery Rules and Procedures, rule 703.C.G.(9) (Load Out), became effective to address the extended closure of the Illinois River in summer 2020. The new amendment deals with barge load-out procedures at affected regular shipping stations where the river is closed for 15 days or longer.

Here is link to the announcement and amendment: https://www.cmegroup.com/…

Here is a link to the recording from the Aug. 6 meeting in Peoria, Illinois, provided by the Illinois Farm Bureau. It discusses the possible impact on fertilizer and grain shipments, to note a few of the topics: https://vimeo.com/…

Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn

(BE/BAS)