December 4, 2003
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
2032 William S. Moorhead Federal Building
1000 Liberty Ave. Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222-4183
Attention: Colonel Raymond Scrocco District Engineer and Commander
Re: Proposed cuts in service FY 2004
It has been eight months since I, and several other board member of the RNC. attended the Corp's press conference at lock 2 on the Mon. where you unveiled your plan to reduce service hours of lock operation on the upper Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers for FY 2004. Your plan severely cuts hours of operation on the Allegheny at locks 5-9 and as well as the Hildebrand and Opekiska locks on the Monongahela. After hearing what was planned, the Coalition felt that the reduction is service hours that you proposed was unacceptable to our recreational and commercial membership. If adopted, your plan would curtail both commercial and recreational traffic to the municipalities that border the upper portions of both rivers. With this in mind, we set out to promote public awareness of the planned cuts in service. The most direct way of promoting public awareness was to ask each municipality that boarders the river for their support in helping us keep the rivers open as avenues of commerce.
Our request for pledges of support was well taken by river communities and to date the River Navigation Coalition has received corporate resolutions of support from 28 municipalities that border the Allegheny. These municipalities realize that free movement of commercial and recreational traffic is essential for their continued growth and prosperity. In addition, we have received a letter of support from the state of Pennsylvania by order of Governor Rendell as well as supporting letters form many other corporations and organizations that have opted to join us in our efforts to:
Keep the Locks and Dams operational and secure on the Allegheny and Monongahela River by finding the necessary funding,
Maximize the hours of operation of the locks for all users,
Promote River recreational boating and lobby for it's equal recognition in governmental spending,
Promote commercial navigation by keeping the navigable channels open and secure,
Promote economic growth pertaining to recreation and commercial navigation for the entire region.
In addition, our counterpart, The Upper Monongahela River Association has successfully acquired many resolution of support requesting that the United States Congress enact and fully fund navigational needs on our nations rivers. This impressive list of resolutions can be viewed at http://www.uppermon.org/.
Included in our municipal and public awareness efforts, the RNC is circulating petitions for the public to sign which asks our representatives to act on this important issue by finding the funding to repair, maintain, and operate the locks to their fullest extent, increasing service for both commercial and recreational navigators. Although we have just started circulating petitions, we already have over 2000 signatures of concerned citizens who realize just how important our rivers are to us as avenues of commerce. Our "Keep the Locks Open" petition offers the following suggestions as ways to accomplish our goals:
1. Undertake the modernization/automation of the locks and dams on the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers
2. Partner with the state of Pennsylvania to offset costs by tapping into the boat registration and fishing license funds.
3. Redirect existing Federal fuel taxes payed by recreational boaters creating a fund to be used by the Corps of Engineers for maintenance of the locks and dams on rivers with low commercial but high recreational use.
4. Institute a lock users fee for recreational boaters to be utilized by the Corps of Engineers for operations and maintenance of the locks and dams that have low commercial traffic.
5. Add the word "Recreation" to the Corps Mandate.
In January, the RNC will be hosting a meeting with representatives of the following offices to present them with hard copies of the municipal resolutions and the signed petition calling them to action. We will be asking for a bipartizan solution to our funding problems.
Our Representatives Senator Arlen Specter, Senator Rick Santorum, Congressman Mike Doyle, Congressman John Murtha, Congresswomen Melissa Hart, Congressman Tim Murphy, Congressman Phil English.
Working to increase commercial use of the upper locks on the Allegheny, the RNC has made a commitment to assist Rosebud Mining in their efforts to find monies for the purpose of subsidizing the construction of a coal loading facility. Mr. Cliff Forest, owner of Rosebud Mining is now in the designing stages of a coal loading facility to be built at his mine in Longansport, which is just above lock 6 on the Allegheny. Mr. Forest has expressed extreme interest in barging coal from his facility to an existing market that he has at the Springdale power plant and other such plants on down the Ohio river. He has also indicated to me that he may also develop a market for his coal at the Reesedale power plant located above lock 8 on the Allegheny. The RNC has assured Mr. Forest that we will assist him with his plans to barge coal in every way possible and we will welcome the additional jobs and commerce that he will be creating for the surrounding area.
Recently the RNC has been made aware that Congressman Murtha may have been successful in appropriating additional moneys for the operation of the locks on the Allegheny River for this coming year. As you can see the RNC has been lobbing for this kind of supplemental funding to assist in the operation of the locks. We would like to be assured that supplemental funds like these will be used to maximize the operational hours of the locks that were slated to have service cuts.
In closing, I would like to say that the RNC is continually working to find the necessary funding so that the Corps Of Engineers can operate and maintain the Allegheny and Monongahela systems of locks and dams to there fullest extent. We will continue to work with the Corps of Engineers to find the answers to our mutual problems.
Capt. Mike Ferris, President
River Navigation Coalition
enclosed: List of resolutions
cc. Senator Arlen Specter, Senator Rick Santorurn, Congressman Mike Doyle, Congressman John Murtha, Congresswoman Melissa Hart, Congressman Tim Murphy, Congressman Phil English, The Upper Monongahela River Association, Boaters Are Voters, AJ. Panion- Leader-Times, Jim SchmittAnchor aweigh, Boro of Rice Landing, Kittanning Boro, Boro of Applewald, Ford Cliff Boro, Gilpin Twp. Washington Twp. Boro of Verona, Freeport Boro, Upper Burrel Twp., Buffalo Twp., Hyde Park Boro, Plum Boro, Leechburg, Parks Twp., Arnold Boro, Manorville Twp., South Buffalo Twp., Harmar Twp., Boro of Brackenridge, Allegheny Twp., Cadogan Twp., Boro of Aspinwall, Blawnox Boro, Boro of Springdale, New Kensington, Ford City Boro, Manor Twp. Pittsburgh Safe Boating Council, Proffesional Marine Operators Association, Keller Marine Service Inc., The Pennsylvania Boating Association, Oakmont Yacht Club, Pirates of the Allegheny Rec. Boating Club, Aspinwall Marina, Inc., Tri-River Marine Trade Association, The National Boating Federation, Pennsylvania. Department of Environmental Protection, Rosebud Coal Mining Inc., Silverton Yachts, Inc.