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ADM Update: Illinois River Upgrades

How the Illinois River upgrades will impact you.

Locks and dams along the Illinois River have been in operation for over 50 years and need occasional repair. Unlike previous river upgrades scheduled during the winter months, this year there will be major work on Illinois lock and dam structures beginning in July 2020.

The following video interview from the Farm Progress Show dives into details about what you can expect from downstream closures. Vice President of Producer Marketing, Doug Roose, interviews ADM’s Director of Southbound Freight, Dan Patterson:

Here are highlights from the interview.

What’s going on with the Illinois River and when will the updates happen?

Patterson: The background is the locks and dams are 50-plus years old and were meant to last for 40 years. On the upper Mississippi, they are able to update one every year during cold weather months. This summer, it will be a full closure for the upgrades on the Illinois River. From July through October there will be zero barge movement.


What is the purpose of the lock and dam system?

Patterson: The river runs downhill from St. Paul to St. Louis or Chicago to St. Louis. In times of low rainfall, there isn’t enough rain to navigate the rivers. The locks and dams hold enough water back to navigate up and down the river safely.


Who is responsible for the maintenance of the lock and dams?

Patterson: The Army Corps of Engineers oversees maintenance of the rivers, locks, and dams. They have different districts–St. Paul, Rock Island, and St. Louis, for example.


Where will the updates happen and what improvements can we expect?

Patterson: The main updates will happen on the Illinois River at the LaGrange Lock and Dam, Starved Rock, Peoria Lock and Dam. With cement walls cracking and breaking, these areas need to be fixed completely.


What will be the impact on ADM barge movement?

Patterson: It will be a full closure. Our ADM elevators and plants will not have the ability to ship anything out on the Illinois River during this time frame, and inbound terminals will not have the ability to bring anything into the terminal. Some grain terminals will have space to bring/dump grain at some of our facilities, but our appetite/basis bids for that grain will be historically low due to our inability to load barges.


Will weather impact the upgrades? 

Patterson: High water would impact the upgrades. Due diligence was completed to learn when the high-water times are, and that’s why July was chosen for the upgrade timing. If high water does happen, we’d likely have to move the upgrades into the main shipping season later in the fall.


How should we prepare for the closures?

Patterson: I’ve talked with the guys who work at our ADM Illinois River terminals and elevators; they plan to empty their terminals of grain in May and June. It’s recommended to use storage barges to store your product and then ship it when the river does open.


What should we expect from other modes of transportation? 

Patterson: Frankly, we will likely lose business during those two to three months. Commodity shipping will likely go to the railroads and trucking terminals.


When is the last time a lock and dam system was completely closed?

Patterson: I don’t know if there has ever been a closure for this long. Typically, there would be closures during the night to repair things, and transport during the day.


You can learn more about the Illinois River project on the US Army Corps of Engineers website. Additionally, you can read more about the impacts from the Illinois Waterway Closure.

To discuss options for your crop storage and transport during the disruption, please reach out to your local ADM representative.

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To hear the full conversation about Illinois River upgrades and learn more about the upcoming impact, visit

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