MARSEILLES, Ill. — A closer inspection April 22 of the Marseilles Dam by Unified Command representatives confirmed that damage resulted from seven barges that broke loose from a tow and came to rest against the dam on April 18.
The Unified Command consists of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Ingram Barge Company.
On April 21 after water levels receded, the Army Corps of Engineers determined that gates two and three anchorage systems are broken and not operable. Gates four, five and six are not operable due to interference from floating barges. Gates one, seven and eight are operational and will be operated in order to regulate the navigation pool levels.
Representatives of the Unified Command have stated that the damage to the gates will not pose additional flooding risk to downstream communities. However, as the water levels continue to recede, the decrease in water depth of the the pool between Marseilles Lock and Dam and the Dresden Island Lock and Dam, which could in turn lead to decrease in navigation depth of the Illinois River and significantly impact its usage.
“We are working closely within the Unified Command and the maritime community to ensure the safety of personnel while we work to recover the maritime transportation system,” said Capt. Matt Sibley, commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan.
A salvage team from the Coast Guard's Atlantic Strike Team, along with representatives from Ingram Barge Company and other salvage contractors, gathered on site to evaluate the situation and formulate a salvage plan.
“Ingram is in the process of moving extensive salvage resources to the scene. Salvage equipment is already located in the pool and it is our hope to begin salvage operations with this local equipment as soon as river conditions safely permit us to do so,” said Scott Noble, senior vice president of Ingram Barge Company.
Maj. Gen. John Peabody and Col. Mark Deschenes of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and Cmdr. Jason Neubauer of the U.S. Coast Guard, participated in an overflight assessment of the area. They also met with Marseilles Mayor Patti Smith and Police Chief James Hovious to brief them of the situation.
“The dam is considered critical infrastructure to the Illinois Waterway and our main priority is to safely restore its condition," said Mike Cox, chief of operations division for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District.
Four of the seven barges are sunk. There are no reports of pollution.
The UTV Dale A. Heller was downbound on the Illinois River, approaching the entrance to the Marseilles Lock canal April 18, when strong river currents resulting from heavy rains redirected part of the tow toward the dam.