Lock and Dam now bears Costello’s name

Corps of Engineers St. Louis District Commander Col. Anthony Mitchell (right) unveils a plaque proclaiming the new name of the former Kaskaskia Lock and Dam as the Jerry F. Costello Lock & Dam, with the former congressman looking on. Pictured with Mitchell and Costello (in back) are LKSI President Carl Tebbe and Kaskaskia Regional Port District General Manager Ed Weilbacher. (Alan Dooley photo)

The Kaskaskia Lock and Dam in Modoc was officially renamed the Jerry F. Costello Lock and Dam during a dedication ceremony on Thursday.

More than 100 persons attended the event to honor an elected official who kept the facility alive during lean times for river commerce, allowing it to become an emerging economic engine for a three-county region and a natural resource for a much larger slice of Illinois.

Col. Anthony Mitchell, USA, Commander, St. Louis Corps of Engineers District, hosted the ceremony. He introduced several speakers and offered a thumbnail summary of the economic impact of the lock and dam.

Ed Weilbacher, Kaskaskia Regional Port District general manager, focused on Costello’s record of supporting operating during lean times.

When the lock and dam went into operation in 1974, coal was the commodity moving on the river. Due to environmental issues, this business dried up and the project faced growing challenges.

A series of annual budget cuts and efforts to choke down hours of operation ensued, and at each step, Costello, longtime Illinois 12th District U.S. Representative, introduced legislation to keep operations going.

When he concluded his term in office on Jan. 3, 2013, he had supported work to ensure the future growth of river commerce in the region.

Weilbacher said it was Costello who had the vision to bring other elements of the river’s welfare into the picture along with commercial navigation.  He credited Costello with developing a team approach to maintaining the river that is today cited as a model nationwide.

Carl Tebbe, president of the Lower Kaskaskia Stakeholders group, added his voice to crediting Costello’s unrelenting efforts to build cooperation and to keep funding and congressional support alive for the river and lock and dam — not just for commercial purposes, but as a recreation and natural resource.

Costello said that without the cooperation of other Illinois house and senate members, what he was able to achieve would have been impossible.

“If we had that kind of cooperation today, as we had between Democrats and Republicans representing the people of this region, we wouldn’t have the gridlock our nation suffers today,” he said.

Costello told how agricultural, navigation, water resources and environmental groups came to him separately.

“I urged them to join forces and work together. I told them that as a group, they had a much stronger voice than as individuals,” he said.

Costello further urged those present to continue to work with those in the House and Senate to sustain the teamwork already in place.

“They will work with you,” he said.  “If they don’t, contact me and they will listen to me.”

A bronze plaque was unveiled that will be displayed in the visitors center at the Jerry F. Costello Lock and Dam Visitors Center.

Finally, Costello and a small group ventured to the operations center, where he was handed the controls that operate the lock gates and water level controls to lock the first river tow boat – the MV Lisa Ann – and four empty 35-by-195-foot barges southbound through the lock bearing his name.

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Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.
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