A crane known as the “HERCULES” unloads cargo from one of the submerged barges near the Marseilles Dam in Marseilles, Ill., April 24, 2013. US Coast Guard Photo
Salvage operations continued Thursday near the Marseille’s Dam with the removal three more barges and two gates being brought back online.
The Coast Guard said that a second submerged barge was removed Thursday after its remaining cargo of rolled coils was removed by the Army Corps of Engineers’ HERCULES floating crane. Later in the afternoon, two more barges were removed, leaving only three submerged barges near the Dam.
Five of the lock’s eight gates were damaged last week when seven barges broke free from a tow in flood-swollen currents and struck the dam. Officials have said that damage to the gates will lead to the eventual loss of the navigation pool above the dam, possibly for weeks.
“We had a very successful day in terms of removing three more barges from the Marseilles Dam, but most importantly, this has enabled more functional operations at the dam to slow the loss of water in the navagational pool,” said Scott Noble, senior vice president, Ingram Barge Company.
As a result of the three additional barges being removed Thursday, two additional gates are operational, the Coast Guard said. The working gates will result in more water retention, and has delayed the loss of the pool until the middle of next week.
Officials first estimated that the loss of the pool between the Marseilles Lock and Dam and the Dresden Dam and Lock could have come as early as this weekend. Loss of the pool means that the Army Corps of Engineers may not be able to sustain a channel depth of nine feet, essentially shutting the river to barge traffic.
“Today was a very encouraging day of progress,” said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Matt Sibley, Incident Commander in charge of the Unified Command. “We are excited and remain committed to working toward the ultimate goal of reopening this part of the Illinois River as quickly as possible.” Capt. Sibley is also the commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan.
A 144-mile stretch of the waterway from mile marker 43.2 south of Florence, Illinois, to mile marker 187.3 near Lacon, Illinois, remains closed to all traffic due to record flooding, the U.S. Coast Guard said on Thursday.
Eight locks on the Mississippi River from central Iowa just north of St. Louis remain closed due to high water, but the river has largely crested and all are expected to reopen by early next week.
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