ROCK ISLAND, Illinois (KWQC) - The opening, closing, and reopening of locks and dams all up and down the Mississippi has traffic almost at a standstill on the river, because barges that may be able to get through one lock end up running into another closed one.
“It will be several days yet before the water is out on the Mississippi within the Rock Island District and all the locks are able to be returned to service,” said Rock Island District Corps of Engineers Chief of Operations, Thomas Heinold.
Lock and Dam 15 in Rock Island is open for traffic, but that doesn't mean it's getting any.
“The locks at the lower end of the Rock Island District and down in St. Louis aren't even open yet,” said Heinold. “So there are a lot of barges and tows sitting down in the St. Louis area itching to get up here.”
Even with the lock ready here, the high river levels are still keeping other locks closed - with barges and boats stuck where they sit.
“Right here at Lock and Dam 15 we are open for business right now. The water was back off the walls last week and we returned this lock to service very, very quickly,” he added. “However, there's been no commercial traffic because all the barges are pinned downstream on the system.”
The cleanup process is going to take some time still - with some lock locations buried in broken limbs and even full trees. Employees have a lot left to do before the locks can open fully.
“They've been doing other maintenance tasks while the locks have been closed, and now that the water is receding - they're very busy trying to clean off debris, logs, things that float down onto the lock gates that lay over the rails,” Heinold said. “They've been busy reinstalling motors and brakes. They've been out with pressure washers cleaning out machinery pits with mud.”
It will probably be 10 days or so before we see more and more locks open - so until then, they won't be expecting any commercial traffic.