Illinois River lock and dam repairs wrapping up

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Illinois River lock and dam repairs wrapping up

Lock and dam systems along the Illinois River are opening back up this month after scheduled repairs.

Tracy Zea, President of Waterways Council Inc. says maintaining and improving water infrastructure is important to agriculture.

“The upgrades are necessary here because it allows our farmers to compete in the foreign marketplace. Agriculture commodity goods represent about 14% of all commodities traveled on the inland waterway transportation system.”

Although the river system is often out of site and out of mind, Zea says it impacts everyone.

“The river actually sets the price for what rail and truck rates will be, so even though you’re not within the first 100 miles of the river, it is still important to you because it is affecting you one way or another.”

He says the Illinois River system isn’t the only one long overdue for repairs.

“Most of our facilities were built in the 1930’s. Right now we have 69 locks that are over 80 years old. Each lock is designed to last 50 years and after 50 years the risk of failure goes up.”

Illinois Corn Growers Association President Bill Leigh says 40% of Illinois corn travels on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers to the gulf for export.

The LaGrange lock and dam reopened last week. The Starved Rock, Marseilles and Dresden Island locations are scheduled to reopen on October 29th.