Voice Your Opinion: Public Meetings Provide Info; Allow for Input on Lock Closures

Dock Talk
18 February 2011

From http://www.boatpittsburgh.com site.  Sign up for their free DOCK TALK email, shown in menu at left of site home page.

If you watch the news, you will surely see and hear that the theme in Washington has shifted to cutting spending where possible.  

Well it is just a matter of time before those cuts trickle down and affect all of us.  Unfortunately for boaters and other users of the Allegheny River, the time is now.

Because of low commercial traffic, the Allegheny River lock system is one of over 100 low usage projects across the country that are facing severe budget cuts.  For the upcoming 2012 fiscal year, the United States Army Corps of Engineers operations budget for the Allegheny River lock system was cut in half from $8 million to $4 million and they have lost all maintenance funding for these facilities that are already in a state of disrepair.  In a press release, Col. William H. Graham, Pittsburgh District Engineer, explains the situation facing everyone concerned.

It has become apparent through the efforts of the USACE that the situation needs to be dealt with in two ways.  First they must deal with the immediate budget that will affect river traffic in 2012 while at same time the collective users of the Allegheny River need to get organized and look at the issue of the long term future of funding for the lock operations.  

Short Term Impact  

They have put together two proposals on how to provide service to the users (both recreational and commercial) that fit within the confines of the budget they have been given. The USACE is also open to suggestions that could include a hybrid of the two options on the table.  For a closer look at the two options, check out this link.  The USACE also posted a comparison chart of the two scenarios for public review.

In an effort to gain input from the recreational boating community, the USACE has scheduled two meetings in the upcoming week.  The public meetings will be held to provide information about the service cuts and to gather input on which option recreational users would prefer or if a third option might be better.  The first meeting will be held on February 22, 2011 at 6 pm at the O’Hara Elementary School, 115 Cabin Lane, Pittsburgh, PA.  The second meeting will be on February 24, 2011 at 7pm at the West Kittanning Fire Department, 401 Arthur Street, Kittanning, PA. If you can't make the either meeting, the USACE will be posting information on their site about submitting suggestions either electronically or via mail.  Once that feature is available, we will be sure to provide a link to it here on BoatPittsburgh.com.

Long Term Impact

As far as dealing with the long term issue, several businesses and individuals are looking to organize a non-profit with the goal of studying the economic impact of these lock closures and to determine the best way to find sustainable funding sources for the long term future.  Please check BoatPittsburgh.com for future updates on the formation of that group.  This will be a massive undertaking and will take an effort from many of the stakeholders.  Without the help of a large amount of Allegheny River users, the long term viability of the locks will be in serious doubt.

Whether or not you can make it to the meetings coming up, please feel free to post your thoughts on the http://BoatPittsburgh.com

Boaters’ Forum regarding the short term and long term issues we are faced with.  We even set up a poll; please vote for the one you feel would best serve all boaters using the Allegheny River.  If you wold like more information about the whole situation, check out these articles provided by the USACE.

Submitted by: Terry Grantz