Keep Locks on River Open
Key to preventing facilities from closing is a dialogue
Morgantown Dominion Post Editorial
5 August 2012
Could the Monongahela River run dry of recreational boaters?
That’s not to say there will be no boaters on the river. However,
they may be unable to move from one pool of this waterway to
another in 2013.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to shutter two area
locks — Hildebrand and Opekiska — on the upper end of the river by
October 2013 because of proposed federal spending cuts and lack of
traffic. There will be no public access to the Hildebrand pool if
the Corps closes this lock.
In 2011, nearly 500 recreational boaters used the locks, while
commercial vessel traffic between these two locks is virtually
The Corps is also proposing to drastically reduce operating hours
at the Morgantown lock. That change would likely take effect in
It may come as a surprise but no one pays for the privilege of
using these locks, although a portion of taxes on diesel fuel —
24.4 cents per gallon — is allocated to maintain and operate them.
In recent months, one local organization, the Upper Mon River
Association (UMRA), has rejected this plan and lobbied local
governments to support its position.
So far, the Marion County Commission has, while Morgantown’s and
Fairmont’s city councils, and the Monongalia County Commission are
considering UMRA’s plan.
UMRA’s leaders say closing the locks would stymie future economic
and river development.
We probably would not be so quick to endorse UMRA’s resolution and
urge local governments to do the same, if it did not indicate that
it’s willing to compromise.
As a matter of fact, UMRA’s resolution describes options that the
group say are acceptable, including keeping the locks open 45 days
annually, instead of the 90 now. It also asks the Corps to find
alternative ways to fund operation of the locks, which could
include cost sharing by governments.
What’s on tap with this resolution is still to be determined.
But the Corps and UMRA are not adversaries. That said, we
recommend they and others begin meeting soon and find a solution
that’s good for everyone and for the Corps’ budget.
No one can overstate the importance of the upper Monongahela River
to our region and its impact on our economic development and
commerce. For instance, it hosts more than 30 fishing tournaments.
Some say this river runs in reverse, because it flows northward.
However, if the corps closes these locks our region will take a