Barges were moving through the LaGrange Lock south of Peoria on the Illinois River
on Tuesday after workers broke through a wall of ice near the lock late on Saturday, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman said. "LaGrange is open but traffic is moving slowly. Ice is still very intense but we're still locking boats with a width restriction of 95 feet," said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Justine Barati. "There was up to eight barges waiting but we're down to three southbound tows and one northbound waiting to get through the lock," Barati said.
The U.S. Coast Guard closed a 60-mile stretch of the Illinois River near the LaGrange lock between mile marker 119 near Havana, Illinois, southward to Valley City, Illinois, at mile marker 60, on Thursday night.
LaGrange Lock is located near Beardstown, about 40 miles south of Peoria on the river.
River officials worked over the weekend to flush out a wall of ice 6 to 8 ft. (2 to 2.5 m) above the water and about 20 ft. (7 m) beneath.
The Illinois River is a key waterway for U.S. grain dealers to ship corn, soybeans and wheat to the Gulf of Mexico. Below normal temperatures across the U.S. Midwest this winter caused a buildup of ice along the river that has slowed barge traffic since mid-December. But milder temperatures over the past week improved the ice conditions along the Illinois, river officials said.
According to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ice reports early Tuesday, the O'Brien lock near Chicago said the channel was clear with only shore ice remaining on the upper pool of the lock. However, the lower end still had 90 percent ice coverage, about 5 in. thick.
Southward to Peoria, barges were passing through the lock with barges traveling through the Peoria Lake. This marked the first time since December 30 that barges were able to navigate through Peoria Lake.
However, problems with ice and low water were not over.
This week, day-time and night-time temperatures were forecast to return to below freezing along the Illinois River, Weather Services Corp. metrologist Joel Burgio said Tuesday. "No significant melt is expected along the Illinois River over
the next five-day period," Burgio said. - (Reuters)