The Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA) is celebrating the reopening of the La Grange Lock and Dam this week, perhaps the most important step in making the Illinois River available again for agricultural shipments.

“It’s a culmination of several years of collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” said ICGA Managing Director Jim Tarmann. “We’re very excited, especially with being in the heat of harvest that our pathway to our world markets is now reopened.”

The $60-million project at La Grange included reconstruction of the chamber walls, along with new controls and a substantial electrical upgrade.

A total of five locks on the Illinois River closed July 1 for a massive scheduled maintenance project. The Dresden, Marseilles, Starved Rock and Peoria locks also closed for repairs.

“All had some nuances to what needed to be done,” Tarmann told the RFD Radio Network®. “I would say the major things that were done at Marseilles and Starved Rock were new miter gates. And obviously all of them had some concrete chamber work done, but not as much as La Grange.”

Marseilles and Starved Rock are scheduled to reopen Oct. 29. Peoria reopened ahead of schedule on Sept. 30.

“You look at the Illinois River and it’s a huge funnel,” Tarmann said. “The farther you get down in the system, the more grain you see coming through the system. So, the crucial ones to stay on time were really Peoria and La Grange.”