CORA, Ill. — Just as their customers are fighting high waters, the work team at Gavilon’s new grain elevator and barge terminal in Jackson County have found themselves in the flood fight, as well.
Opened in late 2016, the elevator is situated on the dry side of Little Levee Road along the Mississippi River in Cora. While the complex is situated on high ground, other issues from the Mississippi floodwaters have created challenges to keeping the business open daily.
First is the high water stage on the river. U.S. Coast Guard closes the river for safety reasons to barge traffic when water levels reach high flood stages in certain stretches along the river.
For Gavilon, that meant not moving grain until the river levels recede. While the barges may have been idle for about a week, manager Cody Smith said the location has managed to stay open much more consistently than other locations upriver.
“We were the farthest north open on the Mississippi for about two weeks when all of the St. Louis elevators were knocked out,” Smith said.
“There was a sweet spot where we were able to work,” he said.
As a result, the elevator’s “draw area” expanded 50 miles northward.
“We were starting to see grain from Nashville and up that way,” Smith said.
“May ended up being a pretty good month for us, but June, we’ll have to see,” he said.
Smith and his team recently estimated that their service territory has roughly 50,000 acres of dry acres.
“About 60 percent of what we have may not get planted at the moment, because it’s got water on it. And that’s on some of the best ground and best producing ground,” he said.
Besides the Mississippi, the farm fields that Gavilon works with also are impacted by the Big Muddy River and its tributaries, all of which are overflowing their banks, too.
Another challenge for the site has been closure of not one, but both roads leading to the elevator. The levee road already had been under undue pressure from the high river waters, but local authorities closed that road to prevent vibrations and extra weight from adding more pressure on the levee structure.
The second road leading from the fields simply had been closed because of standing water from rainfall and seepage covering the roadway. Saturated soils and high water tables have been holding the water longer than usual.
A sand boil also started developing where the elevator’s levee road access intersects at the base of the levee. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staffs have been regularly inspecting these threats and making recommendations to levee district officials on how to limit and contain the boils.
In the meantime, Smith has been working with his crew on a variety of other work until river traffic resumes.
“It never gets boring around here. There’s always something to do,” said Ryan Essling.