WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Keokuk Worried About Barge Breaking Free During Flooding

May 3, 2019

Keokuk is keeping a close eye on the entertainment barge that is docked south of Lock & Dam 19, near the South Side Boat Club. That’s because there are growing concerns the barge could get swept away by floodwaters.

City Administrator Cole O’Donnell said the city placed two large steel rails into the bed of the Mississippi River to help secure the barge in place.

“It would slide up and down those rails [with the current,]” said O’Donnell. “Well, once you reach 22.6 feet, what happens is [the barge] floats off those rails.”

The river crossed the 23 foot mark in Keokuk early Thursday morning. The crest of nearly 24 feet is projected for Friday morning.

O’Donnell said there are three heavy lines holding the barge in place. He said city staff and others are checking the barge every hour to make sure it is still secured to the riverfront.

O’Donnell said the city has a towing company and the local Coast Guard unit on standby to catch the barge if it breaks away.

“If something happens, the towboat can get out there and catch it,” said O’Donnell. “It will be moving as fast as the river. Hopefully, it is not spinning a whole lot so they can get alongside it.”

Keokuk had planned to renovate the barge to allow for future development and possible commercial use. But it learned the price tag would exceed $10 million, so instead, the city is considering options to dispose of the barge.