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Illinois River lock and dam maintenance – 2020 temporary shut down

The Illinois River moves 40 million tons of goods every year and in 2020 six locks and dams will be shut down along it for much needed maintenance.

The construction will take place from July to October.

“The current lock and dam system was built in the 1930’s, so its life has been extended much longer than what it was originally planned.” said Patrick Kirchhofer, the manager for the Peoria County Farm Bureau.

One of the major industries impacted will be agriculture.

During that four month time span the Illinois Farm Bureau said 13.3 million tons of goods are moved, including everything from grain to ethanol.

To compensate the bureau said farmers will have to store their goods for a longer period of time or move them via road or rail.

“So when it comes to farmers who book maybe some of their transportation modes in advance or plan in advance for their marketing year, they really need to be ready before 2020 gets here, if you’re trying to make plans during the closures you’re too late.” said Kirby Wagner, assistant director for transportation and infrastructure at the Illinois Farm Bureau.

The Illinois Army Corps of Engineers who run the lock and dam systems are coordinating the construction.

They will first have to drain the locks which will keep their employees very busy, the temporary closures not impacting jobs.

They said the July to October time frame is ideal for farmers.

“By the time we get to July we’re outside of the typical spring flood season and also we’re wrapping up in October before harvest season gets into full swing.” said Michael Walsh, the chief of locks and dams for the Illinois Water Systems

Traffic between locks and dams as well as recreational activities on the river will still be permitted.

“Improving these locks is key because the alternative would be catastrophic failure, unplanned shut down, that would last longer than four months.” said Wagner

The Illinois Farm Bureau said they do not anticipate the temporary closure of the river to impact market prices of the goods typically shipped on it, but they say that all can depending on if there are problems during construction, but they’ll be keeping a close eye on it when that time comes.

Kaitlin Pearson

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