DONALD C. STRIMBECK
P. O. Box 519
Granville WV 26534-0519
Wednesday 25 April 2001
Senator Robert C. Byrd
311 Senate Hart Office Building
Washington DC 20510
RE: LOCK HOURS, AND UPPER MON INLAND PORT
Dear Senator Byrd:
Thank you for your letter of 5 April (see first enclosure). Our Upper Monongahela Committee for Better Boating will be most interested in the reply you get from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) Washington headquarters concerning our committee's two documents that you asked COE to review. We hope that COE's response will be positive, and, thus encourage you and Representative Mollohan to advocate legislation helpful to the lock hours issue.
Please permit me to now intermix the lock hours and upper Mon inland port issues! Since our committee's formation in February 2000, we have been requested to get involved with other issues in the Upper Mon region, eg, the proposed inland port, Mon river water quality, and, sedimentation re the West Fork river.
Our committee thus is evolving into the UPPER MONONGAHELA RIVER COALITION, which will be chartered in West Virginia, and, set up, as now appears most likely, as a Section 501(c)(6) nonprofit corporation, with lobbying powers, under IRS regulations. The coalition will hopefully be in place before the end of this year. And, it will have on its board of directors and executive committee folks in the Upper Mon drainage basin in West Virginia, but, primarily from Monongalia and Marion counties.
Now, to get back to the inland port issue. I attended a meeting of the Monongalia County Inland Port District Committee of the Monongalia County Development Authority, on Wednesday 18 April. This committee is chaired by Dr. Tom Witt, WVU, with great facilitation help from Don Reinke, President of the Morgantown Area Economic Partnership. Also attending from our committee were Wally Venable, and, Barry Pallay. Barry wore multiple hats at the meeting, as Barry is on the Mon county inland port committee. The second enclosure below is my statement to that committee, which outlines how our committee views the relation between lock hours and the proposed inland port.
Let me review the current status of the Upper Mon inland port situation. The Pittsburgh District of COE (Carmen Rozzi) has in hand the Faucett report, Morgantown WV Port Reconnaissance Investigation, February 1999, which recommends the Morgantown Industrial Park (MIP) as the site for the proposed inland port. Questions have arisen concerning this recommendation. So, the West Virginia Public Port Authority (Bill Jackson) has passed $25K to COE so that TVA (Chris Dager) can review the Faucett report. The 18 April meeting kicked off this review, which will be completed late this June.
Our committee's stance is that we'd favor an inland port on the Upper Mon, if such a singular port, or a system of terminals united into an area-wide port authority, would increase river commerce (excepting, of course, riverboat gambling!), without resulting in economic damage to existing terminals. Increased river commerce thus might help ensure that the Morgantown locks would remain open all day all year, and, that perhaps the Hildebrand and Opekiska locks might thus return from day shift only (instigated by COE circa 1985 due to decline in river commerce) to all day all year operations. Obviously, this would help achieve the "lock hours" objective sought by our committee. But, even if this were to happen, we still want to see boating and related recreations added, by congressional legislation, to COE's waterways responsibilities!
Now, I drew certain observations and conclusions from this productive meeting! My observations are based on the presentation by Chris Dager, TVA, who, amongst other considerations, gave a quick rundown of TVA's experiences in developing inland ports. And, if I've drawn the wrong conclusions from Chris' overview, I'm sure Chris will let me know.
One conclusion is that inland ports are no guaranteed panacea for an area such as our Upper Mon! Inland ports perhaps more often are failures, or, at best modest successes, with a few roaring successes. It appears that a key to success is that ALL the players in the area where the port will be located must be in agreement. I note that we are not there yet, here on the Upper Mon! So, those of us in the Upper Mon area, with business interests in coal, limestone, gravel, sand, scrap metals, boating and fishing recreation, marinas, shore-side businesses who can benefit from river traffic, rails to trails, river water quality, flood control, river flow maintenance, and, related environmental issues, land developers, property owners, government, tourism, etc etc, all need to buy off on whatever is done re an inland port concept for the Upper Mon in West Virginia, if such a port concept is to succeed!
A second very interesting comment by Chris was that boating recreation, and, related recreations, can be a part of inland terminals!! He cited examples, which came so fast I could not write them down! That is, an inland port can be designed to, amongst its commercial aims, to facilitate recreation, perhaps with a marina being part of the port, and, with port facilities dedicated to recreational activities!! I hope to learn more about how recreation can be helped by inland ports!
The meeting was attended by Darwin (Snooks) Johnson, and, his son, Aaron, who runs their Vance River Terminal in Westover (one mile south of my hovel here in Granville, and my hovel is roughly at river mile 99.0). Snooks I've known since the 1950's. Snook's point was why not include all existing terminals on the Upper Mon in WV (and maybe Tygart?), in, for what was not named but for what I'd call, an UPPER MONONGAHELA RIVER PORT AUTHORITY?? Good point!!! We perhaps should not favor one location over another, and, use government assistance to help all ports on the Upper Mon!!?? I must also mention that the meeting was attended by my friend Jimmy Succurro, who has a coal port located at Catawba (river mile 120). Jimmy, like Snooks, presented the case for those who have built river commerce, and, who don't want to see government support go to just one of their competitors, ie, the Morgantown Industrial Park (approximate river mile 103). In other words, let's don't put a single government-backed port in competition with those already established as port operators! And, Chris Dager's presentation pointed out that there are inland port entities that do just that, including many terminals within a region on a river, with Chris citing Weirton WV as one of several examples.
My last comment about the meeting relates to a concern raised at the meeting. That concern is that adding boating and related recreations to COE's waterways management responsibilities would mean that such recreational concerns would supersede COE's traditional responsibilities for flood control, commerce facilitation, and, river flow maintenance. This same objection has come up concerning the proposed National Recreation Lakes Act of 2001. It is NOT a valid objection!! Obviously, if a water management problem occurs in the continental United States (eg, drought affecting Mississippi River basin), then, COE is obligated to equitably manage that problem, to the best interests of the public in the entire affected area. And, such equitable waterways management may, in the overall best interests of the public and environment, not favor boating and related recreation on lakes and waterways. So, let's add river recreation to COE's overall basket of waterways concerns!!
Now, Senator Byrd, let me conclude with two points that should be of interest to you and to Representative Mollohan. First, my presentation at the meeting (enclosure 2) points out a possible revival of coal exports via barge from our Upper Mon region. This is being checked out as part of the TVA review of the Faucett report.. The economics of this revival of Upper Mon barged coal exports would be greatly improved if the Hildebrand and Opekiska locks returned to being open all day all year, instead of their current day shift only availability. I suggest that you and Representative Mollohan may wish to have your staffs to explore and help facilitate these efforts to determine if in fact we may see a revival of coal exports from the Upper Mon region. You might also contact Deane Orr, Manager, River Division, CONSOL ENERGY, concerning the adverse effects of day shift only at the Hildebrand and Opekiska locks. Deane attended last Wednesday's meeting.
Second, as suggested earlier in this letter, it appears that perhaps the most equitable port system for the Upper Mon in West Virginia would be to unite present terminals into an overall port authority for the Upper Mon. And, that overall port authority could provide the organizational vehicle for government assistance for infrastructure development for river commerce and related facilities on the Upper Mon. Such government assistance through that port authority would help revive coal exports from our Upper Mon region, and, help foster all the other related river interests I mentioned earlier.
Our Upper Monongahela Committee for Better Boating thanks you and Representative Mollohan for bearing with us over the past fifteen months, as we belabor you with our concerns! We hope that both of you will propose legislation that addresses our concerns.
(1) Letters from Senator Byrd & Representative Mollohan.
(2) Strimbeck statement to inland port meeting. on behalf of UPPER MONONGAHELA COMMITTEE FOR BETTER BOATING
Senators Rockefeller, Lincoln, and, Breaux.
Representatives Mollohan, Deal, Saxton,
Rahall, and, Capito.
Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton.
Bob Herbst, National Recreation Lakes Coalition.
Mick Blackistone, National Marine Manufacturers Association.
Mike Sciulla, BOATUS Magazine.
All four lock hours email lists.
Darwin Johnson and Aaron Johnson, Vance River Terminal, Inc., P. O. Box 663, Morgantown WV 26507-0663, 304-292-8428.
Jimmy S. Succurro, Rt. 8, Box 90-S, Catawba WV 26555, 304-363-4999.
Copies to following via email:
Donald Reinke, President, Morgantown Area Economic Partnership
Wilfred "Bill" A. Jackson, Executive Director, Public Port Authority, WV Dept. of Transportation
Carmen Rozzi, US Army Corps of Engineers
W. Deane Orr, Manager, River Division, CONSOL ENERGY, Consolidation Coal Company
Chris A. Dager, Transportation Rates Consultant, Navigation & Structures Engineering, River Operations, TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY
Tom S. Witt, PhD, Associate Dean, Research and Outreach; Director, Bureau of Business and Economic Research; Interim Director, Entrepreneurship Center, West Virginia University
D:\ByrdMollohan23AprY2K1 MONDAY 23 APRIL 2001
LETTERS FROM SENATOR BYRD AND REPRESENTATIVE MOLLOHAN.
The last two letters I've received are below. I've not put out their last several letters, as they have been in much the same vein as the two letters below. Now, concerning Senator Byrd's letter below, he is awaiting comments from the headquarters of the US Army Corps of Engineers (COE), Washington, concerning: (1) My 5 January 2001 letter to Senator Byrd, proposing amendments to the draft National Recreation Lakes Act, to, among several things, add recreation to existing COE waterways management mandates for flood control, river flow maintenance, and, facilitation of commerce; and, (2) COE comments on my 19 February 2001 report, COMMERCE DECLINE ON UPPER MONONGAHELA THREATENS RECREATIONAL BOATING. Hopefully, COE's responses will be positive, and, thus aid our cause, so that Senator Byrd and Representative Mollohan will be encouraged to actively pursue legislation that achieves the objectives sought by our UPPER MONONGAHELA COMMITTEE FOR BETTER BOATING!
Also, later this week, looks for my comments as to what we need to do in the "near soon" to further our cause!
LETTER FROM SENATOR BYRD, dated 5 April 2001, and, received 23 April 2001.
Dear Mr. Strimbeck:
Thank you for your most recent communications regarding boating on our nation's navigable rivers.
As you are aware, I am awaiting a response from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to my inquiry regarding the legislation that you have proposed to support recreational boating. Once I receive this information, you will hear from me again.
With kind regards, I am
/s/ Robert C. Byrd
LETTER FROM REPRESENTATIVE MOLLOHAN, dated 17 April 2001, and received 20 April 2001.
Dear Mr. Strimbeck:
I am in receipt of your letter of March 30, 2001, thanking me for cosponsoring the National Recreation Lakes Act (NRLA). I appreciate your being in touch and keeping me informed of legislation that is of interest to you.
I am glad to assist by cosponsoring the NRLA and hope that you will keep me apprised of your efforts to extend the lock hours on the Upper Monongahela River.
Please don't hesitate to contact me again if I can be helpful in any other way. I want to be of all possible service.
/s/ Alan B. Mollohan
REV 5, Monday 16 April 2001
Statement by Don Strimbeck, representing the Upper Monongahela Committee for Better Boating, to the Monongalia County Inland Port District Committee of the Monongalia County Development Authority, noon, Wednesday 18 April 2001, at the Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce.
I represent the Upper Monongahela Committee for Better Boating, organized in February 2000. Our emphasis has been on the needs of recreational boating and related recreations on the Upper Monongahela in WV. During the course of our efforts over the past year, however, we gained a deeper understanding of the tie between recreational boating and commerce on navigable rivers, here, on our Upper Mon, and, nationwide. What we have learned also bears upon the topic of today's meeting, concerning the review that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will make of the study that recommended the Morgantown Industrial Park (MIP) as the best site for an inland port on the Upper Mon.
That location has historical ties to my family, as my father moved our family to Morgantown in June 1941, when I was four years old, so that he could run the boiler room, coke ovens, and, water gas sets at the Morgantown Ordnance Works, during WWII. Ask me about many interesting stories about this later!!
I have a handout of my remarks. Attached to this handout is a press release made to the WV legislature early this month. That press release gives you a glimpse of our committee's activities during the past 14 months. And, as noted in that press release, copies of our report, COMMERCE DECLINE ON THE UPPER MONONGAHELA THREATENS RECREATIONAL BOATING, plus additional information since the release of that report on 24 February 2001, can be arranged if you'll see me at the end of this meeting.
Now, our committee has not yet taken a formal
stance concerning the proposed inland port. We will support
almost any concept, however, which can realistically be expected
to increase river commerce on the Upper Monongahela. Thus, our
committee would support an Upper Mon inland port should
evaluations show its creation could reasonably be expected to
lead to an increase in river commerce, without hurting current
But, some food for thought for the pending TVA evaluation. This is based on what I learned during preparation of our committee's report.
(1) Two Upper Mon coal port operators have told me that putting the Hildebrand and Opekiska locks on day shift only, circa 1985, made a bad situation worse! Yes, commerce through these locks had declined. But, the operators told me, the current 7.5 hour day shift only window for these locks badly hurt the competitiveness of barged coal. Which hurts those located on the Upper Mon down towards Fairmont who want to sell coal to buyers located north of the Hildebrand lock. Why!? Because tow companies bidding on coal barge transport contracts had to figure in the costs of being stranded, north or south of these locks, awaiting day shift!! Thus, coal tow barge folks were at a competitive disadvantage versus their main long distance coal transport competitor, the rail unit train! And, my own personal observations, as one who has lived in Granville on the Mon since 1994 and who walks along the Mon, with my Great Dane, from the WV-PA border, down to Fairmont, is that a lot more coal goes out of the Upper Mon region by rail rather than barge! So, our Upper Mon locks need to be open all day all year if we are going to foster barge commerce on the Upper Mon for coal, gravel, limestone, sand, etc.
One of these coal port operators also told me to look for an increase of coal and limestone shipments from ports located in the Morgantown - Point Marion pool. And, to look for a revival of coal shipments out of the Upper Mon area, by barge, from past, current, and future coal producers, located from Opekiska lock on down to Fairmont. Further, one coal operator in the Fairmont area may switch to barge transport when his unit train contract expires. So, perhaps COE and the Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce, and, especially the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, might want to check this out. If such increases are pending, then, this is a strong argument for ensuring that the Morgantown lock remains open all day all year. And, that the Hildebrand and Opekiska locks go from day shift only to two or three shifts per day. A concomitant beneficial fallout from such increased lock hours could be a stronger justification for an inland port located south of the Morgantown lock, if the port would somehow facilitate revival of coal and other bulk commodities in the Upper Mon region.
(2) Now, what really got our committee in a hissy was COE plans in 1997 to cut the hours at the Morgantown lock and dam to day shift only, again, due to commerce decline. We have three documents in our report to back up this proposed cut. And, let me repeat again that our committee does not blame COE for such contingency planning, because , under current law, COE adjusts lock hours based on river commerce needs, not boating recreation needs.
We need to change the law, so that COE will treat recreational boating and related river recreations as considerations equal to their other waterways responsibilities for flood control, river flow maintenance, and, facilitation of river commerce. Especially galling is that the entire COE waterways navigation budget for operations, and, well over half of their navigation construction projects budget, comes from general revenues. So, the public subsidizes waterways commerce, yet, when commerce on a waterway declines, the public recreational interests on that waterway, including tourism and regional economic development, take a bad hit as COE cuts the hours of operations for locks.
Thus, while there can be apparent conflicts between recreational and commercial users of locks, in reality, in places like West Virginia, their fates are closely intertwined. Therefore, for the next two decades, joint efforts for waterways improvements will benefit both groups.
The bottom line is that our Upper Mon locks ( and locks in similarly affected areas, eg, Upper Allegheny in PA) must be kept open, with expanded hours. Then, both river commerce and recreation can flourish, along with tourism and river-based regional economic development (eg, a river based inland port), for our Upper Mon region! This use of our waterways well fits in with the fact that our Upper Mon region, from Clarksburg to Fairmont to Morgantown, is now known as the High-Tech Corridor along I-79. High-tech employees like their recreational opportunities. So! Let's give our new economy folks an opportunity to use the Upper Mon for recreation, while we also make sure the Upper Mon locks are also open to facilitate river commerce!
So what does this have to do with a possible inland port on the Upper Mon? Well, anything that keeps our Upper Mon locks open, with the Morgantown lock hopefully guaranteed to continue its full all day all year service, and, putting the Hildebrand and Opekiska locks back to two shifts or better yet all day operations, will certainly help boost the viability of an inland port on the Upper Mon!
(3) We thus ask that the TVA and COE folks consider how the hours of operation of the Morgantown, Hildebrand, and, Opekiska locks, will affect the viability of any inland port located on the Upper Mon in WV!! Especially, if such a port is located south of the Morgantown lock and dam!
Finally, I'll end with one more commercial. Our Executive Committee of our Upper Monongahela Committee for Better Boating met on Sunday 4 February 2001. We realized that our endeavors of the past year had yielded many problems concerning the Upper Mon region in WV, beyond boating recreation. For example, the concern of removing trash that piles up behind the dams, during high water, as advocated by Bob Bell, Monongalia County Commissioner, who is leading a great effort to clean up our Mon county countryside.
So, our committee is now creating an UPPER MONONGAHELA RIVER COALITION, that will be able to address any problem of a recreational, business, environmental, or whatever nature, for the Upper Mon drainage basin in WV in general, and, in particular, the Upper Mon communities in Monongalia and Marion Counties. The new coalition will be non profit, with the ability to lobby governments. So, your contributions will not be tax deductible!! We will get this coalition in place just as fast as we can push the paperwork through the WV Secretary of State, and, the IRS. Hopefully, this can be done by the fall of this year.
D:\PressReleaseNinaForest17MarY2K1 SATURDAY 17 MARCH 2001
REV 1, SUNDAY 18 MARCH 2001
REV 2, Wednesday 28 March 2001
PRESS RELEASE TO WV STATE LEGISLATURE, BY UPPER
MONONGAHELA COMMITTEE FOR BETTER BOATING
I'm sure you read John Samsell's HIGH TIMES in the Dominion Post, MONONGAHELA RIVER FREEZES OVER JUST THIRD TIME IN A CENTURY, page 7A, Saturday 10 February 2001. If not, go to archives at http://www.dominionpost.com , and, check it out. In his article, John talks about Nina Forest's help with the article. And, that Nina is a master's candidate in ag sci at WVU, working on a project about WV rivers, which, amongst many things, will lead to a multimedia web page about West Virginia rivers. So, I emailed Ag Sci Dean Hackney, and, he forwarded my email to Nina. Nina stopped at my hovel on 19 February, and, I gave her a copy of Arthur Parker's book, THE MONONGAHELA, published in 1999, and, available at Amazon.com. And, Nina also has a copy of my 19 February 2001 report, Commerce Decline on Upper Monongahela Threatens Recreational Boating. Anyway, in Nina's 9 March email to me, she said she is working with Senator Underwood about getting a farm/land preservation bill passed. And, she is drafting a press release that she'll distribute to all members of the WV legislature on Wednesday 28 March. Nina offered to include a page re our lock hours stuff. I emailed Nina back with, amongst other things, a DUH question as to how our lock hours stuff would tie in with farmland preservation!!!??? She replied that one aspect of your project that ties into hers is preservation of nature, and, she would add an introductory note to that effect. Soooooooooooo!! Here is the lock hours press release.
From: Don Strimbeck
For: Upper Monongahela Committee for Better Boating (MONCOM)
(distributed to WV State legislature on Mar. 28, 2001 by Nina Forest, MA, WVU, webmaster for River Passages Multimedia Webpage, "River Passages." Email email@example.com. WVU phone 304-293-5031.
BOATING RECREATION INITIATIVES CAN BOOST TOURISM AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN WEST VIRGINIA
The Upper Monongahela Committee for Better Boating (MONCOM) is calling attention to recreational boating, and related recreations, as a quality of life issue for West Virginians that also affects the state's tourism and economic development efforts. MONCOM sees three needs for action on boating recreation matters important to West Virginians.
First, Congress is now considering the National Recreation Lakes Act of 2001 (NRLA). The act proposes recreational enhancements for lakes created by federal dams. West Virginia has several such lakes, such as the Tygart dam near Grafton, that could benefit with passage of the act. MONCOM urges state and local officials to work with our congressional delegation to achieve passage of the NRLA. Boating caucuses are being formed in the United States Senate and House of Representatives. MONCOM urges our West Virginia congressional delegation to join these caucuses.
Information about the NRLA can be obtained from several websites. The text of the draft act can be obtained from the Library of Congress THOMAS website, http://thomas.loc.gov, by typing the title of the act into the search site, or the number assigned to the draft act, S.531.IS, or, H.R.1013.IH. The National Marine Manufacturers Association website, http://www.nmma.org, provides background information concerning the proposed bill, and organizations supporting the bill. Be sure to check out NMMA affiliates, especially the States Organization for Boating Access. The NMMA website will also refer you to other useful websites, such as http://www.doi.gov/nrls, http://www.recreationlakes.com, and, the excellent US Army Corps of Engineers (COE) website at http://www.usace.army.mil.
Second, MONCOM has one major reservation concerning the NRLA, in that it does not apply to boating and related recreations on our nation's navigable rivers, many of which are in West Virginia, and which also lack the same amenities addressed by the NRLA for lakes only! MONCOM thus proposes that the NRLA be amended to include boating recreation on our nation's navigable rivers. This is especially important for boating recreation on rivers such as our Upper Monongahela in West Virginia, where the drastic decline in river commerce threatens recreational boating. The MONCOM report, Commerce Decline on Upper Monongahela Threatens Recreational Boating, proposes amendments to the NRLA to also apply the act to navigable rivers, and, related tourism and economic development issues. Copies of this report are available upon request, from Don Strimbeck, 109 Broad Street, P. O. Box 519, Granville WV 26534-0519, 304-599-7585 (fax: 4131), email DCSOINKS@WESTCO.NET.
Third, West Virginians could well benefit from the federal Boating Infrastructure Grants (BIG). This program will help provide the shore-side infrastructure for navigable rivers and very large lakes needed to support long range several day excursions by boats 26 feet or larger. This would be a great encouragement for river recreation, tourism, and, economic development, in West Virginia!! For further information on BIG, go to the BOATUS website, http://www.boatus.com/gov, then, to Boating Infrastructure Program, and, then, to Waterborne Tax Return. Many West Virginia riverside entities will want to check this out, eg, Morgantown and Fairmont! Contact Curtis Taylor, WV Dept. of Natural Resources, 304-558-2771, email firstname.lastname@example.org, for information concerning West Virginia's participation in BIG.
MONCOM also suggests checking US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, THE OTHER WATERBORNE SERVICE, at the BOATUS government website, by clicking on Current Issues. West Virginians need to support COE needs for modernizing boating and related recreation facilities, at the modest cost of one third of a billion dollars!!
West Virginians also need to be aware that President Bush proposes a 14 percent cut in the COE budget, with cuts especially aimed at rivers like our Upper Mon in West Virginia! For further information, go to http://washingtonpost.com, enter CORPS OF ENGINEERS in the News Search site, and, get the article PUBLIC WORKS STUDY HALTED, Thursday 1 March 2001.
MONCOM urges West Virginia boaters, fishers, and, riverside campers, to contact their government folks, at the local, state, and national levels, to encourage them to pursue these boating and related recreation initiatives, which will improve the quality of life in West Virginia and boost tourism and economic development!