As result of accident at dam, Illinois River depth to fall below navigable level

The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard:

(MARSEILLES, Ill.) – Salvage operations led by the Unified Command continued on the remaining six barges floating or submerged near the Marseilles Dam, Wednesday.

On Tuesday, three tug boats safely removed the first submerged barge from the water near the dam.

Dewatering of the second submerged barge began Wednesday. The Army Corps of Engineers prepared a large crane to offload the barge's cargo if needed to help refloat the barge.

Members of the Unified Command flew over the site aboard a Coast Guard helicopter to obtain an aerial perspective of the incident site.

The Unified Command also announced this morning that due to damage at Marseilles Dam, it now appears water levels will drop below minimum depth maintained for commercial traffic, and loss of the Marseilles Pool is imminent. This will occur as early as this weekend and will affect vessel traffic on the river. If that happens, recovery operations may also be affected. It is estimated that this loss of pool could be an extended event, lasting perhaps weeks. The Unified Command is exploring all available options to minimize the duration and impact of such a loss of the pool.

The U.S. Coast Guard is developing a river traffic plan in anticipation of the loss of pool between the Marseilles Dam and Dresden Lock.  The Unified Command is placing a priority on clearing all vessel traffic out of the impacted section of river.

“As we progress through this critical stage during the next couple days, we remain cognizant of the impacts this will have on all river traffic utilizing the Illinois River and related waterways systems, “ said Capt. Matt Sibley, commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan. “The Unified Command is working with maritime industry stakeholders to begin formulating contingency plans.

There have been no reports of pollution. Members of the Unified Command stressed that there is currently no threat of additional flooding in surrounding communities.

At the request of the Unified  Command, the LaSalle County Emergency Management Agency has closed the main entrance to Illini State Park for safety concerns and to allow for passage of response vehicles only.

For more information, contact the Joint Information Center at 216-389-0420.

By Professional Mariner Staff