Water levels on U.S. Midwest rivers were rising after recent warm temperatures and weekend rains mixed with snow hit the upper Midwest but no navigational problems were expected, river officials said. "We're experiencing a bubble effect with a rise and fall of water -- which will continue over the next couple of days," said Lt. Chris O'Neil, spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard in St. Louis. Water levels on the upper-Mississippi River near St. Louis were more than three times levels reached a week ago but were expected to drop gradually by Wednesday, said Charles Camillo, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman at St. Louis. "Water was forecast to reach 20.5 feet on Monday, then drop to 19.3 feet on Tuesday and 17.1 on Wednesday at the St. Louis gauge," Camillo said. "But there are no navigational problems and we're a long way off flood levels," he said.
Water levels in the area last week were below six feet. While water levels on the upper-Mississippi River near St. Louis were at least 10 feet below flood stage, the Illinois River at the Peoria and LaGrange locks were at flood stage, river officials said. The Peoria lock is located at mile marker 158 and the LaGrange lock is about 80 miles south at mile marker 80. "There's a navigable pass and there's no locking at Peoria or LaGrange," said Dave Hood, lockmaster at the LaGrange lock.
"We're about a foot above the wall. Boats are getting through and it will stay this way for at least 2 or 3 weeks," Hood said. "At the Peoria lock, water levels were about 7 feet above normal, the Peoria lockmaster Dick Moss said. "It's basically a straight shot from Starved Rock all the way to the Mel Price lock," Moss said.
But grain dealers who regularly ship commodities on the Illinois River said boats were having problems on the upper end of the Illinois River getting under bridges. Some elevators were closed due to high water levels, they said. River officials said water levels could rise above forecasted levels if expected rains hit the Midwest over the next few days.