21 Oct 2022

Illinois Waterway Lock Closures 2023

Illinois Waterway Lock Closures ~ 2023

In a similar plan to what Loopers saw in 2020, the Corps of Engineers will close four locks in 2023 for much needed maintenance.

The eight locks found on the Illinois Waterway, connecting Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River, were built back in the 1920s and 1930s. The locks have an expected 50-year lifespan, and the Corps has done an amazing job doubling that lifespan. The Illinois Waterway is one of the busiest in the nation, moving in the neighborhood of 140 million tons of goods up and down the river every year.

We will continue to share more information with Loopers as it becomes available, but this is what we know right now.

Beginning June 1, 2023 the Corps of Engineers will be closing Brandon Road, Dresden Island, Marseilles, and Starved Rock Lock & Dams.

Brandon Road ~ closed 120 days (June 1 – Sept. 30)
Dresden Island ~ closed 120 days (June 1 – Sept. 30)
Marseilles ~ closed 90-120 days (June 1 - Sept 30)
Starved Rock ~ closed 90-120 days (June 1 - Sept 30)
Brandon Road and Dresden Island will both have new upper miter gates installed and gate machinery replaced. Brandon Road also needs to have repairs to the concrete walls. Valve and electrical system replacements will also be done at Dresden Island.

Marseilles and Starved Rock require a little less work: Marseilles needs only machinery replacement and electrical rehab while Starved Rock needs only the machinery replacement. 

Why these 120 days?

As we learned in 2020, the dates picked by the Corps of Engineers isn’t random. They aren’t trying to make life difficult for Loopers, but instead are looking at the big picture, keeping in mind all the vessels who use the waterway.

And, as with most things, Mother Nature gets her say as well.

When considering the ideal time to do the repair work on the locks, of course winter is out. No one is working on locks in the middle of winter with freezing temperatures and a foot of snow. After winter, comes the flooding season (affectionately known as spring), when depending on how much rain and melting snow is coming down the system from places further north, they are forced to wait until water levels recede back to normal before beginning any maintenance work. But by the fall (harvest season) some of those aforementioned 140 million tons of commodities are ready for their trip up or down the river.

The only option left is summer.

But all that considered, if they are able to complete the work on time as they did in 2020 (even with all the COVID-related supply chain and worker absentee delays they experienced) this will have Loopers heading down the river system in early October. Not too bad, considering the 2020 closures started in July and went through the end of October, meaning Loopers were just starting down the rivers in early November.  The 2023 Fleet will hopefully be headed down the rivers to warmer locales about a month sooner, which is great news!

Doug will keep us posted as the projects progress and if changes or delays come up, he will let us know. To keep informed on the projects yourself, head to the Rock Island Corps of Engineers website.  On the right side of the screen, click on the Navigation box, and then scroll down to the box labeled Illinois Waterway Consolidated Closures for all the latest information.

We are grateful to Doug and his team (including all the lockmasters on the Illinois Waterway Lock & Dams) for keeping us informed and working with us to keep Loopers cruising down the rivers!