From Captain George
I just came from a meeting with Colonel Raymond K. Scrocco, the officer in charge of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District. The meeting was concerned with future scheduling of hours of operations on the navigational locks on the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers.
Colonel Scrocco is devoting every effort to provide services to the locks on the upper reaches of the Allegheny and Mon. However, he is caught between a "Rock and a Hard Place". His operating budget is being cut and he must make do with the funds that he is given by Congress. His proposed Schedule of Operations for the Fiscal Year 2004 ( which begins in October 2003) is not favorable to recreational boating.
As a matter of fact, the Colonel advised all of us at today's meeting that, as far as the Navigational Rivers of the United States and the operation of their locks and dams is concerned, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers has no mandate from Congress to recognize either the volume of traffic or the economic impact of the recreational boating industry, whatsoever. All his decisions for scheduling hours of operations must be based solely upon commercial usage of each lock .
Recreational Boaters, WE JUST DON'T COUNT. As far as the present system is set up, no matter what we say or do, the locks are operated and scheduled, subject only to commercial interests.
WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS PROBLEM, AND TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE. Once something is taken away by government, it is ten times more difficult to get it back again. If locks close, it will be hell to pay to get them back open and operational again.
As I have told you before, Boaters Are Voters has joined with the River Navigation Coalition to work towards a solution of this impending problem.
We have met with Senatorial and Congressional staff members from every district that borders on our rivers. We have made them aware of our concerns and solicited their help. Their response has been helpful and polite, but, lets face it, we're not knocking down any doors and this is an uphill battle all the way.
What we need is a huge, groundswell of support from the thousands of recreational boaters who use these rivers and who will ultimately be adversely affected by limitation of travel access to and from pristine waters and waterfront attractions. This would present the Coalition with a "Media Event" that would draw public attention to the problem. When Voters get concerned, politicians listen.
One of the elements of success that the Coalition has achieved is the compiling of resolutions from almost all of the Municipalities that border the rivers or are economically affected by the financial impact of the recreational boating industry. These resolutions are being prepared in a package to present to our political representatives. This support is a definite help, but the major outcry must come from large numbers of "grass roots" voters who express their views to their representatives. I can speak for Boaters Are Voters as a group, but individual calls and letters from constituents are what make things happen in Washington.
Anyway, that's what I feel needs to be done to "jump start" our efforts to get Congress to recognize that recreational boating should have an equal share with the commercial interests in the overall usage of our waterways. That message should have been delivered to Congress years ago, but we, as a group, have not had adequate lobbying representation until now.
I look upon these meetings as a possible turning point towards the recognition of the rights of recreational boaters. We share the waterways and we should share the recognition. We will not sit idly by and watch our fellow boaters get locked out of the ability to travel to destinations of their choice. There were promises made to the communities along the rivers when these dams were constructed in the 1930s era. We will search historical records to learn of the extent of these promises made by former Congressional representatives, check their legal implications, and follow-through to keep these waterways open and navigational.
Point Number Two: DUES
Many of you have sent your 2003 support checks to Boaters Are Voters at 22 Werner Road, Pittsburgh PA, 15238. Ten dollars for individuals and fifty dollars for commercial supporters. Those of you who postponed sending your checks from the former request, please take this as a reminder to do so soon.
All these efforts require some financial support too.
Yours for boating equality,
Captain George Boyle, Executive Director