April 19 (Reuters) – Barge shipping was halted Friday on parts of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers as flooding forced the closure of several locks until at least the middle of next week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Friday.
Eight Mississippi River locks, from Lock 15 at Rock Island, Illinois, to Lock 22 at Saverton, Missouri, were closed between Thursday evening and Friday morning as water in the rain-swollen river overtopped the dams, said Rob Germann, operations manager for the Army Corps’ Mississippi River project, Rock Island district.
At least two more downriver locks on the Mississippi River were forecast to close by the weekend, halting commercial navigation on the major shipping waterway north of St. Louis.
On the Illinois River, Dresden Island, Starved Rock and T.J. O’Brien locks were closed due to high water while Marseilles lock and dam was closed after nine barges broke away from a tow in record floodwater late on Thursday and struck the dam.
The collision may have damaged part of the dam, but the extent of the damage cannot be assessed until the river recedes and all of the barges are removed, said Ron Fournier, public affairs officer for the Army Corps’ Rock Island district.
Four dry cargo barges sunk after striking the dam, three remained afloat, including one carrying caustic soda, and two have been removed from the waterway as of Friday morning, he said.
Neither river was expected to crest before Sunday, and the locks will reopen as river levels drop. The latest river forecasts from the National Weather Service suggest the lock closures will persist until at least next Wednesday.
(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Jim Marshall)
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