The LaGrange Lock & Dam rehabilitation project is almost completed. The Army Corps of Engineers has been working over the last 4 months to rehab the nearly 90 year old lock and dam back into functional use.
Mike Walsh, US Army Corps’ Chief of Locks on the Illinois Waterway, says that the furious pace they have put them in a place to open the lock next week: “Well, the LaGrange Lock, the progress of the rehabilitation is actually moving along very well. We closed down there on July 1st and as of right now, we are scheduled to reopen on Tuesday, October 13th sometime probably in the middle of the day. It’s a complete rehab. Pretty much everything there on site is brand new – all the concrete, the walls, the machinery, the control systems. We are really excited to getting them opened back up on Tuesday.”
Walsh hopes it gives the locks a few more years of service, which had been open since 1939: “When those locks were built in the 30s, they had a life expectancy of about 50 years. Obviously we are past that date. All of our sites on the Illinois waterway are in need of some major work, and we do have a lot of work going on various other places this year as well. This major rehabilitation hopefully kicks the can 20 or 30 years down the road at least and provides a little bit more longevity for the system.”
Walsh believes that entire Illinois River should be reopened within the next few weeks ahead of the busy harvest season: “Out of the 5 sites that are receiving work this summer, we already have one site reopened. The Peoria Lock reopened on the 30th of September. LaGrange is going to be our next one, which will come back online on October 13th. Then, Starved Rock, Marseilles, and Dresden Island lock are currently all scheduled to open back up on October 29th. The way things look today, we are going to be right on schedule.”
Walsh says that the Army Corps has had a stroke of good luck with the summer weather cooperating to make the construction process run smoothly: “We have been very fortunate this summer. We have had excellent weather for construction. We haven’t had any floods this summer. We had a little high water earlier this summer when construction got started that may have delayed some work about 2 weeks. All in all, we were able to make up that time and we’re on schedule. I’m really happy with the progress that’s been made this summer.”
Out of the 5 other sites, LaGrange had the biggest scope of work to be done. The estimated cost for the rehabilitation was approximately $117 million. Two more closures of locks along the Illinois River are expected in 2023.