UTICA — Tourists, nature lovers and eagle watchers who venture out to the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center may notice some massive structures on barges near Starved Rock Lock and Dam.
The large pieces will stay where they are throughout the winter and spring, says Allen Marshall, district spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Rock Island District.
The assistant lockmaster at the dam in Utica said the barges are storing both the upper and lower gates for Starved Rock Lock and Dam and the upper gates for the Marseilles lock.
This summer, the Corps and contractors will engage in major projects all along the Illinois River.
Long-range commercial shipping will halt from Dresden to Grafton through the summer and early fall on the Illinois River.
“The dates are going to be fluid based on Mother Nature,” Marshall said. As for Starved Rock, “their upper and lower miter gate installation is schedule for July 1 through Oct. 29. That will be a full closure of the lock.
“Originally there were six closures scheduled for 2020 and that was to do long-overdue maintenance,” Marshall said.
Businesses and industries that ship materials ranging from gravel and corn to oil, coal and sand have been preparing for the river closure and altering schedules and planned shipping methods. Marshall said industrial users believed it was easier for the Corps to do the projects “in one big chunk.”
“They’ve been coordinating these closures for several years,” Marshall said.
“They are aging pieces of infrastructure, and if we don’t maintain them, they won’t function efficiently,” Marshall said.
Starved Rock Lock and Dam was constructed between 1926 and 1933.
The Corps plans work and closure this summer from the LaGrange dam near Grafton upstream and including locks at Peoria, Starved Rock, Marseilles and Dresden.
“Brandon Road is a little too much to get to this year,” Marshall said of the Joliet lock. “They’ll look at Brandon Road in a couple of years.”
The river will remain open for local recreational and commercial boats.
“One of the things we have been trying to be sure is communicated, is the locks are going to be closed, but the pools will still be open,” Marshall said. “There’s no drawdown of the river. Recreational boating can occur, they just can’t get from pool to pool.”