Notice to Navigators: Illinois River

IRCA Update:  LaGrange Lock


IRCA Members and Guests,


As most of you are aware, the ice conditions proved to be especially difficult at LaGrange this weekend.  An ice gorge near Briggs Landing choked some of the flows to the lock – allowing ice to build and thicken on the dam and in the forebay at a faster-than-usual pace.  Also, a 15-wicket hole was open on the dam until late afternoon yesterday.  The reduced flows from Briggs Landing coupled with 15 wickets being down caused the need for the tainter gate to remain inactive until flows improved.  As expected, lockage times were severely impacted due to these tough conditions.


Industry and USACE worked together to identify solutions.  Industry vessels helped break ice in the Grape Island & Briggs Landing areas - which eventually freed a gorge and released flows back to LaGrange.  Once the flows at LaGrange improved, lock & dam operators submerged the tainter gate to flush ice away from the upper forebay.  When possible, northbound vessels departing the lock would break ice in the pocket above the forebay so that full southbound tows could get flat on the wall and scrape any ice buildup.  Vessels below the lock volunteered to hold each other’s tows so that vessels could pull cuts, etc.  Lock personnel had to temporarily suspend locking so they could stabilize some wickets to prevent a potential breach.  Also, they raised 7 of the 15 downed wickets – thus improving the utilization of the tainter gate to flush ice from the approach.


Despite only locking 4 vessels since Friday, it was a productive weekend at LaGrange Lock in terms of the amount of work it took to mitigate the weather and river conditions.  I just wanted to take a moment to thank USACE and Industry partners for their commitment to safety and high levels of teamwork while working through some very tough conditions.


However, we are not out of the woods just yet.  We currently have 26 vessels in queue (17 southbound & 9 northbound), and we still have some tough ice conditions.  Double-digit temperatures are forecasted over the next 10 days, with several of those days seeing above-freezing high temperatures.  Hopefully, the higher temps will give us some reprieve from the icy conditions and allow lockage times to drastically improve.


I’ll send updates as I receive them.


Best regards,


Jeremy “Shot” Tardy
Western Rivers Boat Management, Inc.
Office:  270.444.4772
Mobile:  270.933.8056