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Veteran Advisor

Upgrades for the Illinois River

Exports can flow even faster, down the Illinois River.


Mike Steenhoek, Executive Director Soy Transportation Coalition, sent this update to me, Monday.


Late last week, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that the scheduled rehabilitation work on five of the eight locks and dams along the Illinois River has been completed.  The Illinois River is therefore back to being operational for barge transportation of soybeans, grain, and other products and commodities.  It is very good news to have such a key component of the soybean and agricultural supply chain back open.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, over 73 million bushels (over 2 million metric tons) of U.S. soybeans were exported last week alone.  Given the significant volume of soybean and grain exports, it is essential to have each link in the supply chain operating without impediment or complication. 


A summary of the work and completion dates are below:

  • LaGrange Lock and Dam – Major Rehabilitation and Lock Machinery Replacement
    • Full closure scheduled from July 1st through September 30thOpened to navigation on October 13th
  • Peoria Lock and Dam – Dewatering for maintenance and inspection
    • Full closure scheduled from July 6th through September 30th – Opened to navigation on September 30th
  • Starved Rock Lock and Dam – Upper and Lower Miter Gate Installation
    • Full closure scheduled from July 1st through October 29th – Opened to navigation on October 29th
  • Marseilles Lock and Dam – Upper Miter Gate Installation
    • Full closure scheduled from July 6th through October 29thOpened to navigation on October 29th
  • Dresden Island Lock and Dam – Upper Bulkhead Recess Installation
    • Partial closure scheduled from July 6th through October 3rd and from October 25th through October 28th
    • Full closure scheduled from October 4th through October 24th – Opened to navigation on October 29th

Additional information on the overall project can be accessed via the Army Corps of Engineers at:

No government agency, including the Army Corps of Engineers, is perfect.  However, I have routinely expressed that if Congress provides the Army Corps of Engineers with clarity of mission and predictability of funding, exceptional work can indeed occur.  The rehabilitation work on the Illinois River locks and dams is such an example.  I commend the Army Corps of Engineers – specifically the Rock Island District – for performing this important work with minimal delay.  It did not require a professional engineer to be able to diagnose that it was not a matter of “if” there would be future mechanical failures at some of these lock and dam sites.  It is more a matter of “when” they would occur.  The crumbling concrete and widespread rust at a number of these sites – particularly LaGrange Lock and Dam – were evident to even a casual observer.  Agriculture, the barge industry, and other stakeholders have been advocating for this work for a number of years and are pleased it has finally concluded. 


According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center, the Illinois Waterway annually accommodates over 40 million short tons of freight.  The commodity breakdown is as follows:

  • Food and Farm (includes soybeans, grain, and other agricultural products): 15.2 million short tons
  • Crude Materials (includes sand, gravel, stone, forest products, iron ore, etc.): 8.1 million short tons
  • Chemicals (includes chemicals and fertilizers): 6.52 million short tons
  • Petro and Petro Products: 5.9 million short tons
  • Manufactured Goods: 3.85 million short tons
  • Coal (includes coal, lignite, and coke): 1.2 million short tons


(NOTE: One short ton = 2,000 lbs.; One short ton = 33.33 bushels of soybeans)


What say you?



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