Annual LKSI barge trip a success

A beautiful evening was enjoyed by some 300 guests on the 14th annual LKSI Kaskaskia River barge trip on Friday. (Alan Dooley)

The 14th annual Lower Kaskaskia Stakeholders barge trip on their namesake river was a huge success despite threatening weather that cleared the area only an hour before the event began.

A capacity crowd of 300 was on hand for the event that took them out on the Kaskaskia River to view regional economic successes and beautiful scenery in ideal late summer weather to celebrate “The Year of the Port.”

A ceremony unveiling a monument recognizing the renaming of the Kaskaskia Regional Port District #2 facility to recognize contributions of Stanley L. Reeble, first general manager of the KRPD, was conducted before the trip.  The ceremony demonstrated in stone a decision of the port district to rename the facility.

This was actually made 30 years but was never recognized with a marker. The omission was discovered only recently during research for events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the port district.

Members of the Reeble family were on hand to hear Stanley Reeble and his legacy lauded at the site of the new marker.

LKSI and Gateway FS President Carl Tebbe welcomed the embarked invitees as the barge, pushed by the Southern Illinois Transfer Company towboat, MV Jake Huffty, backed away from KRPD #2 at Baldwin and headed out onto the Kaskaskia.

U.S. Congressman Mike Bost was scheduled to attend and speak, but he was held in Washington by last-minute votes and was unable to make it to the event in time.

St. Louis District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Commander Colonel Anthony Mitchell began his remarks, remembering by honoring the 14th anniversary of the infamous 9-11 disaster in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania that cost the lives of some 3,000 Americans.

Col. Mitchell went on to tell how the event’s theme – “The Year of the Port” – speaks to the economic value of the watershed.  He also informed the audience that the strong alliance of interests represented by the LKSI has been instrumental in enabling the Corps to start a three-year feasibility study of the lower river to help plan for its future.

He also announced that the lock at the river’s confluence with the Mississippi River, renamed in honor longtime Congressman Jerry F. Costello last year, will be de-watered next year for the first time since it was opened in 1974 for a complete inspection and any necessary repairs to ensure its future efficient service.

Other speakers addressing the audience included KRPD general manager Ed Weilbacher, who gave listeners ample evidence of the value of the river they were floating on.  He told how 230 people have full-time jobs with firms directly associated with the river.  He also noted that some 600,000 tons of grain moved down the river last year by barges, the most efficient method of bulk commodity transportation, thus enhancing incomes for farmers growing the crops.

Weilbacher added that some $1.6 million in construction is underway on the river, including at the KRPD #2 site where Gateway FS is expanding.

Kurt Johnson, President of Southern Illinois Transfer,  talked about the motor vessel pushing them, noting it came from service on the Gulf Coast and was ocean-capable. He also told them the firm was completing construction of its first towboat at KRPD #2.  They are building the vessel’s superstructure there and it will be mated this fall with a hull constructed by JB Marine of St. Louis.

A second vessel is already in line for construction next and Johnson told the Republic-Times that a third vessel is nearing order status as well.

The evening ended as the barge and towboat neared the dock at KRPD #2 and all aboard were thrilled by a fireworks display before docking and heading for a tour of the facility where the towboats are being built and refreshments to conclude the evening.

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Alan Dooley

Alan is a photojournalist -- he both shoots pictures and writes for the R-T. A 31-year Navy vet, he has lived worldwide, but with his wife Sherry, calls a rambling house south of Waterloo home. Alan counts astronomy as a hobby and is fascinated by just about everything scientific.
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