Rimer, Templeton Locks to Close to Allegheny River Boaters

Aspinwall Herald
31 March 2011
By Mary Ann Thomas

The Army Corps of Engineers will close Lock No. 8 in Templeton and Lock No. 9 in Rimer completely to recreational boats and drop 24-hour service from Lock 2 No. in Highland Park to Lock No. 4 in Natrona because of federal budget cuts.

While the Corps proposed to shutter five locks, from Schenley to Rimer, completely to recreational traffic as one of two options announced earlier this year, operations of Locks 5 (Schenley), 6 (Clinton), and 7 (Kittanning) were spared in the Corps final decision.

The cuts take effect Oct. 1.

Commercial vessels will be able to pass through all locks during operating hours and anytime by appointment.

Details will be released at a news conference today at Lock No. 2 in Highland Park, Pittsburgh, according to Jeff Hawk, spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District.

Last month, the Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to reduce lock service on the Allegheny River after funding for operations of the navigation system were cut in half, to $4 million, in President Obama's 2011-12 proposed federal budget. Although the president's budget hasn't passed, the cuts are expected to hold.

As many as 18 Corps employees who work on the Allegheny River will be re-assigned to other posts in the district, according to Corps officials.

The Allegheny River locks were targeted for the service reductions or closures to recreational boats because federal funding is based on commercial boat traffic, which has declined on the Allegheny for decades.

After announcing the proposed budget cuts in February, the Corps held public meetings in O'Hara and Kittanning to gauge interest and take suggestions for keeping the locks open and viable in the future.

Recreational boaters turned out in droves in Kittanning, where boaters would be most affected by the elimination of lock services in the upper reaches of the Allegheny.

Concerned Armstrong County officials, businesses and boaters have proposed setting up a coalition to try to bring more money to the navigation system and spur more business on the river.

They also suggested a toll or fee for recreational boaters to pass through the locks to help finance future operations of the navigation system.

Mary Ann Thomas can be reached at mthomas@tribweb.com or 412-782-2121 x1510.