ROCK ISLAND, Illinois – The Mississippi River currently sits just below five feet at Rock Island. It’s one of the lowest levels we’ve seen in five or six years. Locks and Dams Manager 15 Bob Castro says that it is actually helpful to have lower river levels when operating locks and dams.
The lock is authorized to maintain water at depths of at least nine feet at all times. Right now the lock is still about three and a half feet away, which is a problem in being able to maintain that depth.
Castro said, “When it comes to locks and dams, it actually makes our lives easier to get in and out of the lock because we don’t have high flow rates. We don’t have serious drift issues.
Where the concerns come into play is after the barges have left the locks. The Corps works year round to dredge the river to ensure there is at least 9 feet of depth for safe movement. Castro saying, “We are constantly maintaining the channel to maintain these levels. We have our hotspots, our known hotspots mostly in our district.
Lock 15 has two mechanical dredges that can pick up sand and sediment from the bottom of the river and move them to the banks. Castro says they also have access to their sister district in St. Paul Minnesota.
They provide a hydraulic dredge that works like a vacuum sucking material from the bottom of the river and moving where it’s needed. “Our two mechanical dredgers typically run all summer along the river trying to take care of our hot spots based on our graphical information.”
Castro also offers a warning to boaters. Since these boats often travel outside of these barge travel channels, they can end up in shallow water much more often.
Castro saying, “Warning to boaters who are not experienced in the area, the water levels for the past five or six years are much lower than what you are used to, so you have to exercise more. be careful, whether it is returns or low water levels.