RANDOLPH COUNTY, Ill. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed the Jerry F. Costello Lock on the Kaskaskia River to traffic on Friday.
“Engineers came down last week after the lock operators noticed that the lower miter gates failed to close. It was determined after their investigation that siltation was the cause of the closure,” said Travis Little, the assistant operations manager with the Corps’ Carlyle Lake and Kaskaskia River Project.
A buildup of silt and debris made it impossible to close its downstream miter gates. These gates allow water levels within the lock to go up and down.
“We were lucky that our service crew was close by. They mobilized yesterday and they are on-site today. And they are presently mechanically dredging the area,” Little said.
Dredge crews spent Wednesday excavating the silt. It is good news for the people at Southern Illinois Transfer, INC., which services barge operations on the river.
“We have 16 barges stuck on the Kaskaskia side of the lock and that’s affecting probably six customers per barge to get out,” said Owen Welge, logistics coordinator with Southern Illinois Transfer. “And we have 15 barges on the Mississippi side waiting to get into the Kaskaskia.”
The Costello Lock and Dam are located at the confluence of the Kaskaskia and Mississippi rivers. Welge said once grain shipments ramp up with the harvest, it could have been a larger problem.
“Once harvest starts, our barge loads for the elevator there at Evansville would average three a day, six or seven days a week,” Welge said. “It could back up twenty-one barges real fast and that would be on either side”
The Army Corps said the dredge crew is making good progress and hoped to safely reopen the lock as soon as possible.