Creative approach helped keep lock and dam running during flood

KEEPING THE LOCK RUNNING–Pictured is the lock arm recess area on the Jerry F. Costello Lock and Dam, where debris can get caught if the water is high. This would cause the lock to fail. By flushing out this area during the recent flooding, the lock was able to operate safely at a level of approximately 382.5 feet, ultimately allowing barge traffic to move through the lock at two feet higher than normal operating conditions.

While the record flooding in 2019 disrupted barge traffic throughout the inland waterways in the Midwest for extended periods this spring and summer, a little out-of-the-box thinking helped limit the number of days the Jerry F. Costello Lock and Dam was forced to close, keeping commerce flowing on the Kaskaskia River in southern Illinois for several additional days during the persistent high water. 

The Kaskaskia River is a critical transportation link for several commodities, including scrubber stone and coiled steel inbound, and grain and slag outbound, moving 1.5 million tons per year. The river is navigable due to the Jerry F. Costello Lock and Dam – which is only eight tenths of a mile upstream from the Mississippi River channel and, therefore, greatly influenced by high water conditions on the Mississippi River. The conditions this summer were ripe to have a significant impact on commodity flows on the Kaskaskia River, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers demonstrated outstanding flexibility in taking creative measures to help to minimize the impact.

For more, please see this week’s print edition.