PEORIA, Ill–The rising levels of the Illinois River have caused barge traffic to halt from Lacon to Kingston Mines.
The Coast guard has officially closed the Illinois River to all traffic both recreational and commercial, causing many barges and the Spirit of Peoria to stay docked.
This comes from the river rising to over 28 feet in Peoria, and Monday morning the U.S. Coast Guard decided it was time to close the river to protect the levees around the river.
“Essentially the levee system that protects a lot of the shoreside infrastructure, when the river gets to that height, it gets close to the top of the levees, and with any wake that would come off of the vessel traffic it would further impede that and further cause issues in terms of water coming over and potentially weakening the levee system themselves,” said Supervisor of Marine Safety Dispatchment in Peoria Lt. Daniel Clayton Wilkinson.
With river levels exceeding 28 feet, even the Cost Guard was affected by the flooding. Its entire parking lot was flooded, causing officers to have to enter their workplace by boat.
“Being located on the river which facilitates our industry normally, and our operations, it also has a side impact of being low-lying and we’re one of the areas to flood out. Currently we have a couple inches of water out in our boat house where we store our small response boats and as you can see the rest of our facility is pretty well unaccessible for foot traffic and we’re restricted to small boats to get into the station right now,” said Lt. Wilkinson.
Lt. Wilkinson says because the barges are not able to move, it financially hurts many companies along the river.
“For those industries in that affected zone, they’re not gonna be able to run and there’s also short side facilities that are impacted which includes grain elevators and a few commercial facilities that handle regulated cargo such as ethanol and things of that sort,” said Lt. Wilkinson.
The Spirit of Peoria had to cancel all of its trips over the weekend. Captain Alex Grieves says he’s happy this didn’t happen in June when the Spirit of Peoria cruises daily.
“This was our first official weekend we were supposed open up we had a Friday moonlight cruise, and sight seeing on Saturday and Sunday so we did cancel that, but we are looking to the future and we’re getting a lot of work done in the meantime,” said Capt. Grieves.
With Mother’s Day just days away, Capt. Grieves says he hopes the river levels recede so it can host families.
“We’re excited to get open, we have a Mother’s Day cruise this Sunday that we’re looking forward to doing, we have a lunch and evening dinner cruise,” Capt. Grieves said.
The Coast Guard is keeping an eye on the river levels and plans to open the river back up once the water recedes. Currently the forecast says the river levels won’t go under 27 feet until Friday.