Boaters Take Advantage of Mon River Locks in U.S. Travel

13 August 2012
By Kelly Rippin, Monongalia and Preston County Reporter

MORGANTOWN - Many local watershed groups have been outspoken about their efforts to keep local locks and dams on the Monongahela River open and operational.

"Both near and long term we really need to be able to realize it's full potential," said Barry Pallay, vice president of the Upper Mon River Association. "We cannot have the locks closed."

But out-of-town boaters highlight the importance of functioning locks as well.

Couples traveling on live-aboard trawler boats visited Morgantown by way of the Monongahela River. Randy and Barbara Semper retired, sold their home, and now travel around the United States waterways by way of a Great Harbor Trawler.

According to the website, trawlers are "designed for avid cruisers and full time live-aboards." The Sempers visited North Central West Virginia this weekend.

I caught up with Barb by phone early Monday morning as the Sempers were leaving Monongalia County.

"We came up the Ohio River, decided to go to Morgantown and do a little sight seeing in Morgantown," said Barb Semper.

That kind of water traffic is exactly why Pallay says the locks need to remain open.

"One of the visions we have for the Mon River in this area is to be a destination for those kind of large boats," Pallay added.

The Sempers spoke with Pallay about how important locks are in their preferred way of travel.

They traveled on to Fairmont after passing through Opekiska Lock and Dam.

"Obviously in this particular case, they couldn't have gone through the Morgantown lock and gone on to Fairmont if the lock was closed," Pallay explained.

"We had a wonderful time," Semper added. "The scenery on the way up was beautiful. We enjoyed the dock in Morgantown. It was very easy docking."

Stopping service of the locks would not only prevent boaters from traveling up and down the river, it would block most boat traffic from some of the pools because there are no public access points.

"This is a beautiful stretch of river," Pallay said. "We don't want this river shuddered, so that essentially you cant get through, you cant enjoy it. You cant realize the economic potential of this river and the commerce."

Pallay added that a proposal to cut back on days of operation for the locks has been submitted to the Army Corp of Engineers as a compromise, but no decision has been made.