COL. Stephen L. Hill
District Engineer, Pittsburgh District
US Army Corps of Engineers
2032 Wm. S. Moorhead Federal Bld.
1000 Liberty Ave.
Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222-4186

March 9th 2005

Colonel Hill:

Thank you for attending last Saturday’s joint meeting of the River Navigation Coalition, the Upper Monongahela River Association Inc. and Boater Are Voters. It was nice to have the opportunity to meet you and hear, first hand, your plan on evolving the Pittsburgh District Corps of Engineers into a credible and efficient operating unit. I speak for all parties when I say that your candidness is something we have not seen displayed from Corps leadership in the past. It is truly a breath of fresh air for our organizations.

As the owner of a small manufacturing business, I understand the daily challenge of operating a business at a profit. Over the past couple of years my focus has been on cutting all waste from our manufacturing process (lean manufacturing). For this reason, I am well aware of the task that is laid out before you, as well as the negativism and unwillingness to change that you must first overcome to get the job done. What I’ve found in our transformation to lean, is that you must first form a steering committee made up of employees from every part of your organization. Each representative must have equal say in the group and not be afraid to be out ranked. Your job as coordinator is to continually ask the questions "Why do we do it this way?" and "Does anyone have any ideas as to how it can be done more efficiently?" Interestingly enough, given the opportunity to express there opinion freely, your people know many of the answers as to how to cut waste. Implementation of the new ideas becomes much easier when they were the result of a group effort. It is important you find a good way of measuring your progress towards a leaner Corps of Engineers so that all who are involved can see the success. In the long run, every employee wants to be productive and be a part of the winning team.

I would also like to applaud your idea of forming a new focus group which will include members of all three of our organizations. This group will bring to the table many issues that concern pleasure boaters on our three rivers that have never had a means to be voiced in the past. It will provide you with the incite as to how the boating public perceives the Corps new directions and promote support for change. It might also provide you with many good suggestions from a different perspective. Some times those who are not in the nitty gritty of a problem can offer a fresh opinion. I welcome the opportunity to participate in this focus group.

I respectively ask you to review FY05's proposed schedule of operation for the upper locks on the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. In particular, the proposed operating hours of the Hildebrand and Opekiska locks and dams on the Mon. and locks 5-7 on the Allegheny.

As it was pointed out at the meeting, this new schedule will severely limit the ability for slower moving pleasure craft to access the upper pools of both rivers.

On the Allegheny, the proposed schedule will make it impossible for boaters to get to Kittanning’s John Murtha Park other than on weekends and holidays. While some cuts in service from last years schedule would be understandable and even expected, the severity of the cuts at locks 5 and locks 6 on the Allegheny will not sit very well the membership of the RNC. The addition of some Friday and Monday hours of operation and possibly going from an 8 hour to a 10 hour work day to lengthen the daily operating hours of the curtailed locks, would go a long way towards convincing boaters to accept a reduced schedule. The opportunity for pleasure boaters to schedule lockages in advance could possibly benefit both pleasure boater and the Corps of Engineers. The new schedule may very well be one of the items for discussion of the new task force. If not, the board of directors of the RNC would appreciate the opportunity to make some suggestions as to a compromised FY05 Schedule.

In closing I would like to say that I, representing the board of directors for the River Navigation Coalition, offer my support to you and the New U.S. Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District. If I can be of any assistance to you in any way please feel free to call on me.

The RNC salutes the New U.S. Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District in their efforts to:

Yours truly,



Capt. Mike Ferris
President, River Navigation Coalition
Director, The Pirates of the Allegheny Recreational Boating Club
Vice President, Salem Millwork and Truss, Inc.

Copy: Brig. General Bruce A. Berwick
Congressman John Murtha
The Upper Monongahela River Association, Inc.
Boaters Are Voters
Armstrong County Tourist Bureau