Casey Makes a Case to Fix Locks and Dams
21 April 2012
By Kaitlynn Riely
It's easy to get people passionate about fixing potholes on the
street. Getting them invested in fixing river locks and dams is a
But Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey is trying.
"It's up to me and other elected officials to make the case, to
make people aware of the value of these locks and dams, and the
impact on their lives, by way of jobs and commerce," he said.
Mr. Casey spoke Friday morning at the Gateway Clipper Fleet in
Station Square, where he urged Congress to provide funding for the
region's locks and dams. He called rehabilitation of the
infrastructure "an important investment" in the future of the
region, which has long benefited from its rivers.
"The failure to invest in these advantages, in these projects,
will have a devastating effect on this region now and, more
importantly, over time," he said.
Mr. Casey, a Democrat, called on the Senate Appropriations
Committee to include in the final budget $36.5 million for
upgrading locks and dams on the Monongahela River and $20.4
million for infrastructure on the Ohio River, the funding amounts
requested by the Obama administration.
He made his remarks to representatives of the local and national
river transportation industry. Standing on the upper deck of The
Empress, Mr. Casey stood near the spot where the Allegheny and
Monongahela converge to form the Ohio.
For America's river infrastructure system, the crisis Mr. Casey
described extends well beyond the Point. An official with the Army
Corps of Engineers, which maintains the system, has said the
waterways are headed toward catastrophe.
The more than 200 locks on the country's rivers were built to last
50 years, and nearly 60 percent of them are still operating beyond
their useful life, kept operating by patchwork efforts by the
About 40 percent of the 89 locks in the Corps' Great Lakes and
Ohio division, which includes Pittsburgh, are more than 70 years
old. Many of these aged locks are in Western Pennsylvania, where
33 million tons of coal, petroleum and other commodities pass
through the region's 23 locks and dams each year.
Failure of the 105-year-old locks and dam at Elizabeth or the
Depression-era Charleroi lock could shut down river traffic on the
Monongahela River for months, an outcome that could have costly
consequences for businesses and consumers, especially in terms of
Congress has authorized $8 billion in projects that would replace
or rehabilitate aging river infrastructure. But it has not fully
funded the projects. The piecemeal funding the projects receive
generates significant cost overruns and construction delays.
Mr. Casey, in his remarks, referred to a study that showed nearly
220,000 jobs in the region are supported by waterway activity.
"This is about jobs. It's about the future," he said. "It's about
our ability to be competitive in Western Pennsylvania."
The amount needed to safeguard the waterway infrastructure in the
Pittsburgh region -- about $57 million -- is a "reasonable
request," he said.
Kaitlynn Riely: email@example.com or 412-263-1707.