Monongahela River Locks: Economic Engine or Eye Sore?

WDTV - 24 March 2016
By Matthew Baumgarten

For the last 20 years, the locks and dams at Opekiska and Hildebrand have essentially been shut down, and only used on a very limited basis. But now, a new source of funding will re-open the locks, creating economic growth in both Marion and Monongalia County.

"We are providing the Army Corps of Engineers funds to open the Opekiska and Hildebrand so that we can hold bass tournaments and other festivals in this regions, which otherwise would not be possible," says Barry Pallay, President of the Upper Monongahela River Association.

Pallay says just one tournament can bring about $70-80,000 to the region. Marion County and cities like Granville and Fairmont are also providing funds to make the openings possible.

"These locks are an investment of about $5 billion. If we don't show the Corps that the communities and the region use the locks, both for recreational purposes and commercial purposes, then the Corps is inclined to reduce service on those locks."

Pallay says not only are locks important for recreational use, but for logistics as well.

"We would've needed probably around 3,600 trucks to make up for what is carried right now through the Morgantown lock, and that's a minimum."

But, there's still one issue left on the table: the large amount of trash piling up around the Morgantown lock. Pallay says funding a clean up would take money away from the current project.

"We need the economic development, we need the commerce, and we need the additional recreation, the recreation industry, essentially. It's more important, a higher priority than the trash at this point."
But, some of you on the River Trail say the problem shouldn't be ignored.

"It seems to me like you would want to take care of the trash first. Maybe a little delayed in the benefits, but yeah, it's definitely an eye sore," says Joan Pitzer.

"If you're coming into the Morgantown area, especially around this area, where a lot of people come to, it can be kind of disheartening and kind of gross to look at," says Kayla Allen.

Others off camera said they believe there has to be an easy solution, and they hope something is done.