Obama Proposes Money for Locks, Dams in Lower Mon Project
The Valley Indepedent
5 February 2015
By Chris Buckley
Jim Ference | The tug,
Stephen P. Venable, passes through the Charleroi Locks and Dam 4
in Monessen on the Monongahela River. On Tuesday, June, 18,2013.
President Barack Obama's proposed 2016 fiscal year budget
includes $52 million for the Lower Mon Project, the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday.
Coming on the heels of the corps' decision to direct $58 million
in “unallocated funds” to the locks and dams project, Obama's
proposal gives hopes that work will be completed by 2024 – 20
years after its initial completion date.
The project involves improvements to locks and dams on the
Monongahela River in North Charleroi, Elizabeth and Braddock.
Money has been an ongoing problem for the project, which began in
Stephen Fritz, Lower Mon Project manager, said that to achieve the
2024 completion date, the corps would need to receive $600 million
to $700 million over the period.
“That figure is dependent on the contracts that need to be awarded
for any given year,” Fritz said.
Since the project began, the corps has received $740 million,
including $84 million through the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act of 2009. The stimulus money was used for
construction of the river wall and upper and lower guard walls in
The money will advance work on the project, which involves
rehabilitation of Locks and Dam 2 in Braddock and construction of
two larger locks at Locks and Dam 4 in North Charleroi.
Eventually, Locks and Dam 3 in Elizabeth will be removed.
A new dam has been completed at Braddock.
“With that money, we hope to award the contract for the river
chamber completion – one contract with multiple options for future
years to complete,” Fritz said of the proposed 2016 allocation.
The construction of a new river chamber in North Charleroi would
span seven to eight years and cost $250 million to $500 million,
The $600 million to $700 million price tag to complete the project
would also involve dredging of the Monongahela River. The corps
plans to dredge the river north of Locks and Dam 3 over a
three-year period, beginning in 2018 or 2019, Fritz said.
Currently, only the land chamber is operational at North
Charleroi. The river chamber was closed a decade ago to prepare
for construction of the new river chamber.
“We are authorized to build the land chamber, too,” said Fritz,
adding, “We can achieve over 90 percent of the project benefits by
never building the land chamber.
“The primary goal is to get the river chamber complete, get the
dredging completed and then remove Locks and Dam 3.”
Both chambers at North Charleroi are built on a common wall, which
was founded on timber.
“Although we continue to pass traffic through the chamber, we do
have concerns about how long it will remain operational,” Fritz
said. “It's not an immediate concern. I have more concern about
Locks and Dam 3. If we have a failure that causes us to lose the
pool – if that pool elevation drops – that could cause some
stability issues at (North) Charleroi.”
The locks and dams have a tremendous economic impact on the
region. Roughly 12 million tons of cargo travel through North
Charleroi annually. Fritz said transportation costs are roughly
$10 per ton less by barge than by truck or rail.
About 80 percent of the barge cargo is coal, although tows also
move aggregate, fly ash, salt, petroleum and chemical products.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be
reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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