Home / News / Mississippi River lock near Alton closed for repairs, after run

Mississippi River lock near Alton closed for repairs, after run

May 30, 2023May 30, 2023

A towboat pushes barges through the Melvin Price Locks and Dam in Alton on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.

The main lock chamber of the Melvin Price Lock and Dam near Alton will be closed to all commercial and recreational Mississippi River traffic until Saturday, officials estimate, thanks to the discovery of a crack in one of the lock’s metal lift gates.

The closure announced Wednesday came after a towboat collided with the lift gate on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps said the crack was found during inspections conducted as a result of the collision — or technically an “allision,” in nautical terms, which refers to when a watercraft hits a stationary object. The agency said it wasn’t yet clear whether the incident caused the crack, but that determination is expected later and could affect how costs of the ongoing repair work are handled.

A towboat pushes barges south on the Mississippi River near Wood River, Illinois after passing through the Melvin Price Locks and Dam in Alton on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.

The Corps said the closure would not bring navigation on the river to a standstill but instead would likely mean delays.

“It just slows traffic down,” said George Stringham, a spokesman for the St. Louis District of the Army Corps.

When operational, the main lock chamber can accommodate a towboat and up to 15 barges — the number that towboats typically push. But the smaller, auxiliary chamber can only fit up to nine barges at a time, which will require boats to reconfigure their loads. That means using the smaller lock can take boats up to two hours to pass through as opposed to the 30 or 40 minutes that they’d normally experience in the bigger chamber, Stringham said.

He added, however, that the hiccup comes at a time of year when river traffic is relatively low. For instance, shipping activity hits seasonal highs in autumn, after harvests create a spike in agricultural commodities moving along the river, and in the spring, when the traffic in Upper Mississippi ports first resumes, after the winter.

A couple of towboats were near the lock and dam on Wednesday, waiting to pass through, Stringham said.

Even before the crack was detected, the structure’s lift gates were due for upgrades in the near future, just as preventative maintenance.

“It just so happens that they were scheduled to be replaced,” said Stringham.

For the second year in a row — and only the third time in the last 40 years — lake sturgeon spawned in the Mississippi River near Maple Island, just south of the Melvin Price Locks and Dam. The site, about two dozen miles north of St. Louis, is the only known location in Missouri where lake sturgeon spawn. Photos courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

Your daily recap of the top stories of the day.

Catholics said goodbye on Sunday to 50 parishes in the St. Louis archdiocese that will close or merge starting Tuesday.

Most parish closings are in St. Louis and St. Louis County.

The implementation phase of the “All Things New” downsizing plan starts Tuesday.

St. Roch parish in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood will close and be absorbed by Christ the King in University City on Aug. 1.

More than 5,900 customers remained without power in the St. Louis area late Monday morning, according to Ameren, after a severe thunderstorm a…