Three Rivers Regatta Cancels All Water-Based Activities this
But organizers say the festivities will make a splash anyhow
3 July 2015
By Jon Schmitz
Swift currents and debris in the water after the soggy June
weather forced organizers of the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers
Regatta to cancel all river activities associated with the event,
including the signature Formula One power boat races.
The conditions also had public safety officials cautioning
recreational boaters who might take to the rivers this weekend, as
the flow rate on the Allegheny River was more than four times what
“We’ve been inundated with heavy rains for practically the entire
month of June, and it has had an impact on the rivers,” regatta
board chairman John Bonassi said at a news conference Friday.
“Unfortunately, we’re going to have to cancel. That’s the bad
news. However, the good news is the rest of the regatta remains in
place and is going to be as exciting as possible.”
The decision was made after discussions with Pittsburgh River
Rescue, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers and the
city’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Mr.
Lt. Devin Adams, spokesman for the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety
Unit in Pittsburgh, thanked the organizers for making what was a
disappointing but necessary decision.
“Even though we’ve had river levels dissipate, we still had high
flow rates and we still have a lot of debris that is flowing
through the water,” he said.
Mr. Bonassi said weather has caused some minor disruptions of
previous events but he knew of no other time in the regatta’s 38
years when all river activities had to be canceled.
“It’s going to be an extremely fun-filled weekend. Yes, we’re
somewhat disappointed about the power boats but that’s just a
small component of what this regatta is really all about,” he
In addition to the swift currents, officials were worried about
debris — including tree limbs — that is below the surface and
could be invisible to the racers.
“You can’t do much to really prevent it from flowing through the
zone where they will be running. Some of that is also below the
surface of the water and so it’s difficult to see. When you have
boats that are racing in excess of 100 mph, it’s going to create a
dangerous situation,” Lt. Adams said.
Tony Darkowski, chief of city river rescue, said he also was
concerned about private boats on the water this weekend. The
current will make anchoring difficult and could be dangerous for
those who try to swim.
“Any time it rains you have to be concerned about higher bacterial
counts in the water as well and so I would probably advise
[people] not to be in the water,” he said. “We can’t stop anybody
from getting in, and if they do get in, they should be in a life
jacket or personal flotation device.”
Ray DiMichiei of the city’s emergency management office said
security will be ramped up for the weekend.
“There’s a very good security plan in place. It will mirror what
we did last year, plus,” he said. “We’re confident it’s going to
be a safe, fun event.”
While there is a general alert throughout the nation for the
holiday weekend, there is no specific credible threat of
terrorism, he said. Those entering Point State Park for the 9:30
p.m. fireworks display will have their bags searched and separate
checkpoints will be set up to allow those without bags to enter
quickly, he said.
Boats will not be allowed to dock around the Point, Mr. DiMichiei
said, even though the regatta’s river activities have been
canceled. “We don’t want boats tied off. People walk away from
them, they tear loose from the docks and go down the river and
there’s nobody on them,” he said.
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1868 or on Twitter