LaGrange Lock on the Illinois River Reopens; Other Newly Maintained Locks Follow
The LaGrange Lock and Dam at Versailles, IL on the Illinois River reopened last week after a major maintenance project to rehabilitate the lock and dam during the summer of 2020. The 12 million tons of food and ag commodities that leave the state via the LaGrange Lock will resume, just in time for harvest 2020 sales.
Other locks on the Illinois River including Starved Rock Lock and Dam, Marseilles Lock and Dam, and Dresden Island Lock and Dam are scheduled to reopen after major rehabilitation on October 29. Peoria Lock and Dam opened on September 30.
Minonk farmer and Illinois Corn Growers Association President Bill Leigh said, “The river systems we enjoy here in Illinois on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers are hidden gems that allow Illinois farmers to be very competitive selling our commodities out of the state. Access to a newly maintained system will be a very exciting prospect for Illinois farmers along the Illinois River.”
“Next on our list, we look forward to the locks being upgraded and extended to 1,200 foot chambers which will allow modern tows to go through the locks without breaking in half, making the system much more efficient and timely,” he said.
Funding for lock and dam upgrades is visible on the horizon, with potential to begin pre-engineering and design on a lock on the Illinois or Mississippi River in 2021. This budget development is now possible after lobbying efforts from ICGA and their partners to reprioritize and reallocate federal and industry funding.
ICGA has led the effort to modernize and upgrade the locks and dams in Illinois, with the topic being one of the top two concerns of ICGA members for the last fifteen years. ICGA hosted barge tours in 2000-2010 to raise farmer and stakeholder awareness of the issue and has been lobbying for lock and dam funding since 1995.
“Our farmer members understand that the Illinois, Mississippi, and Ohio Rivers are one of the biggest advantages we enjoy in Illinois. We have access to these efficient transportation networks year-round and they make us the largest corn export state in the union. Investment in the locks and dams on the inland waterways system is a game changer for Illinois corn farmers,” said Rodney Weinzierl, Executive Director of IL Corn.