From the Farm: Illinois River locks upgraded

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LaGrange, Ill. (WCIA) — The Army Corps of Engineers improved five locks on the Illinois River that were built in the 1930’s.

All of those locks were only expected to last 50 years.

This major project was just downriver from Beardstown, where Stu Ellis reports from the LaGrange Lock for the WCIA Morning Show.

“We were extremely fortunate this summer,” says Mike Walsh. “We had a little high water this spring that delayed the start here at LaGrange probably by about 2 weeks. Overall the summer cooperated with us very well, we didn’t have any major rain events, we didn’t have any floods.  Water levels were relatively low or what we consider flat for the entire construction season. Without that, who knows whether we would have been able to meet our schedules and deadlines here.

“So were are truly grateful for the weather we had this summer. LaGrange lock here is very prone to flooding, Peoria lock, these locks here spend quite a bit of time underwater, especially in recent years when we have had some pretty significant rain events and flood events.”

Workers were there at all hours for the four-month, $120 million dollar project.

“At one time we were as high as 250 craft, skilled craft workers here on site working around the clock,” says Walsh “Again you take a project this big and you try to accomplish the work that has been accomplished in a 90-to-120-day window it certainly takes a lot of skilled craft labor and we are very appreciative that we were able to get that skilled craft here.”

There is still cosmetic work that will be underway through next summer.

“Some of our contractor staff has already demobilized off the site, their work is complete,” Walsh says. “We still have quite a bit of concrete work here to complete on the horizontal surfaces here and of course there is a lot of paving, a lot of work indoors, rehabbing the lower level of the lock house here. But the major milestones have all been completed.”

Grain barges are already going through the improved locks.

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