Illinois River Closures, Fish Barriers Are Top Concerns At IRCA

Illinois River Closures, Fish Barriers Are Top Concerns At IRCA

Scheduled closures of the Illinois River in 2019 and 2020 to repair aging locks were the topic of greatest concern for members of the Illinois River Carriers Association (IRCA), as the association held its third-quarter meeting on September 11 at the Paradise Casino in Peoria, Ill. The Corps’ plans for fish barriers on the river were close behind, according to IRCA member Stephen Douglas, a port captain with Marquette Transportation Company.

Chuck Shea, project manager for the Chicago Engineer District, discussed the Corps initiative to replace the electrodes on the Romeoville (Ill.)  fish barrier.  The Corps needs to replace the electrodes on the Demo Barrier, he said, a job that is expected to last two weeks and will require daytime closures.  When that is complete, the Corps wants to replace all of the electrodes on Barrier 2B.  That job will require up to an additional four-week daytime closure. The electrodes on barrier 2A have already been replaced.

Aimee Andres, executive director of Inland Rivers, Ports and Terminals, asked for a full impact study to define the delays and cost of the current fish barriers at Romeoville.

IRCA also asked for a two-hour opening of the lock each day during the project. Shea said that opening the river two hours each day would increase the total duration of the job. A mid-day opening would require the contractor to move the crane barge out of the channel to pass traffic.

Shea said the Corps wants to raise the barriers 4 feet, which will still allow for 15 feet of depth over the electrodes with a 5-foot drawdown in the Lockport Dam pool. 

IRCA members asked whether the closures for electrode work could be aligned with the scheduled 15-day closure at Marseilles Lock and Dam, tentatively set to begin June 1.  Shea replied that the electrode work needed to be done during the winter, when the Asian carp slow down and are less likely to migrate.

The 2020 work hasn’t been funded yet, said Shea; for the work to take place, contracts must be awarded by the third quarter of FY2019.  If it is funded, the work is tentatively set to begin in July 2020.

IRCA members asked for information on the additional Permanent Barrier 1.  Shea said construction on that was most likely two years away.  IRCA also asked for information on the Brandon Road Study Proposed Barrier, but Shea said his office wasn’t handling that study. He said he thought a final report would be published sometime in 2019.

U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Zeita Merchant, commander of Marine Safety Unit Chicago, and Lt. Kody Stitz, Sector Upper Mississippi, spoke briefly on Subchapter M implementation.

Lt. John Ramos of the Waterways Management Division at MSU Chicago mentioned the protective fendering that was previously reported damaged on the I-180 bridge at Mile 286 of the Illinois Waterway; Ramos said that the Illinois Department of Transportation was supposed to have the obstruction marked.

Ramos also noted the river closure for the Corn Festival fireworks at Mile 263.5 (Morris River Front) on September 29 between 5:25 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

Matt Avery, master of the Coast Guard cutter Sangamon, spoke about buoy issues and requested that industry report any time the buoys in the vicinity of Mile 290 are missing, as time constraints sometimes prevent him from running the extreme upper end of his area of responsibility.

Chris Reger, dredge coordinator of the Rock Island Engineer District, spoke about dredging on the Illinois Waterway.  He reported that a contract hydraulic dredge started work at the Kingston Mine area on September 11; the current plan is for the dredge to move to the Mackinaw River area next and then to Clark Island at Miles 215-217.  Clark Island has an estimated 84,000 yards of material that needs to be removed and the dredge will be able to remove 10,000 cubic yards a day.

There are plans for the mechanical dredge to finish Grape Island and move to the Starved Rock Lower approach. Right now, he said, the Corps has 18 to 20 days’ worth of funding for dredge operations.