Salvage operations on remaining barges at Marseilles Dam continue

9th Coast Guard District News
MARSEILLES, Ill – Salvage operations led by the Unified Command continued Saturday to remove the three remaining barges submerged near the Marseilles Dam.

An additional crane arrived Saturday morning to offload cargo from one of the sunken barges. The removed cargo is  placed into a receiver barge. When enough of the cargo has been removed to refloat the submerged barge, the process to safely remove the barge from the area will begin. That process is expected to begin Sunday.

Four of the seven barges were successfully removed earlier this week.

Meanwhile, as the Unified Command continues salvage operations in the wake of the barge incident at Marseilles Lock and Dam, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is monitoring the dam to ensure its public safety.

“Although the probability is very slim, there is a slight chance that there could be significant damage to the dam that we haven’t yet been able to determine,” said Col. Mark Deschenes, commander of the Corps’ Rock Island District. “If there is serious damage, it could pose a threat to the structure and to the safety of the public we serve. Our first and always number one priority is public safety.”

Due to high river levels and interference by sunken barges, the most critical public safety damage assessment is scouring of the riverbed. Abnormal or accelerated scouring could undercut the dam’s foundation and result in a catastrophic failure. The Corps plans to assess the full scope of damages as soon as possible.

“If a failure were to occur, there are many commercial vessels, recreational craft and river-based structures that could be damaged due to the receding pool,” said Mike Cox, operations division, Rock Island District. “Additionally, river structures below the dam could be impacted by debris. However, such a failure should not result in any widespread downstream flooding as the dam is not a flood control structure and it does not retain water like a reservoir.”

In order to protect vessel traffic above the dam and ensure that salvage operations remain unimpeded, the Coast Guard has modified the Illinois River safety zone originally implemented due to high water conditions.  The new zone prohibits all vessel traffic between the Marseilles Lock and Seneca, Ill., that isn’t specifically involved in salvage operations. A larger section of the Illinois River, between Lacon, Ill., and the Brandon Road Lock at Joliet remains closed to recreational vessels due to high water and excessive river debris.

Illinois River projections currently indicate that the 9-foot navigational pool level between the Marseilles and Dresden Dams will be maintained through May 7.

The Unified Command consists of representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District, and Ingram Barge.
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