Emergency Lock & Dam Repairs Back-Up Mississippi Traffic

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GRANITE CITY, IL (KPLR)-- Commerce has come to a stop on the might Mississippi River after serious damaged occurred at Lock 27 in Granite City.  Lt. Colin Fogarty of the U.S. Coast Guard said, "The Mississippi River is one of the most crucial waters ways in the United States."

Fogarty said almost 50 percent of the country's farm exports pass St. Louis on barges.  But that all came to a halt Friday night when a vessel hit a protection cell at Lock 27.  A protection cell is like a guide post for barges as they enter the lock.  Andy Schimpf is Operations Manager at the lock, "It`s like a protection cushion, like a big bumper for the tows when they lining up to get in the lock chamber they can glance off of that and its made for them to rub on."

But water levels are way down and the barge hit far below the armored area on the protection cell and smashed into a weak spot causing it split open and sending rock that was inside everywhere.  They closed down the lock in both directions.  Lt. Fogarty added, "Anything that slows down America's transit system is a big deal."

More than 40 vessels and 230 barges cannot move their goods.  That's equal to 8000 rail cars or 14 thousand semi-trucks full of cargo.  Because of the low water tow operators have a tough time finding a safe place to park barges on the river. Fogarty said, "It's like trying to find a parking spot at the mall on Christmas Eve."

Officials hope to have the problems solved and the lock reopened by late Wednesday night.