On June 1st, 2023, the Army Corps of Engineers closed four Illinois River locks for much overdue maintenance. Although it has only been about a month since the closure, the effect on shipping normally done on waterways in the region has been dramatic.
Let’s take a look at some key information that everyone needs to know regarding the lock closures.
Which Locks Are Closed?
Effective June 1st 2023, the following facilities will be closed.
- Brandon Road
- Dresden Island
- Starved Rock
How Long Will the Locks Be Closed?
The scheduled closure dates are June 1st to September 30th 2023.
Why Are The Locks Being Shut Down?
The locks on the Illinois Waterway that connect Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River were constructed during the 1920’s and 1930’s. At the time, they were designed to last about 50 years.
While the Army Corps of Engineers has been doing a great job extending the life span of the locks, they are in great need of repair and maintenance to keep them operating for many years to come.
The Work Being Done
Brandon Road needs upper miter gates, some machinery replaced, and concrete wall repair. Dresden Island also requires new upper miter gates, as well as valve and electrical systems replacement.
Marseilles needs some electrical modernization and machinery replacement. Starved Rock has also been targeted to have some of its machines replaced.
What Effect Does the Closure Have on Shipping?
The locks closure has had a major impact on normal shipping channels in the area. The Illinois Waterway is one of the most traveled in the U.S, with an estimated 140 million tons of goods going up and down the river each year. The closures will strain the trucking system and rail systems, as many more loads will need to be delivered in this fashion.
Why This Time of Year?
While there is no ideal time to do repair work on the Illinois Waterway Locks, June through September is the best period to get things done. Winter is not a good time, with bitter cold, snow, and wind.
With spring, comes the potential for flooding. Because it is critically important that the locks are ready to be opened again for the fall harvest season, summer is the best time to make these repairs.
How This Impacts Alexander Chemical & Our Customers
Any type of transportation interruption of this magnitude can have a profound effect on product delivery expectations for all industries if suppliers were not proactive in preparing for these closures. It can also cause significant stress on the rail and trucking systems, which could lead to an increase the price of certain chemicals that our customers utilize.
Fortunately, Alexander Chemical has taken a very proactive approach to the lock closure situation. For the past few years, Alexander Chemical has taken proactive steps to strengthen our supply chain. Through these efforts we have diversified the suppliers we rely upon to manufacture and deliver our products. Additionally, we have created supply contracts to guarantee our supply through interruptions from lock closures, natural disasters, and other challenges that can arise. These steps, combined with our dedicated in-house logistics arm, Circle Transportation, will allow us to continue to provide best-in-class service to our customers through these challenging few months.