Army Corps Seeks Solution to Lock Closure
Proposal nixes access for recreational users
Morgantown Dominion Post
18 July 2012
By Erin Fitzwilliams
Folks who use the Monongahela River gathered to discuss a proposed
service reduction of locks and dams on the upper Mon on Tuesday at
WVU’s National Research Center for Coal and Energy.
Officials from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE),
which runs the system of locks on rivers in this region, were on
hand to discuss and explain the possible Opekiska and Hildebrand
recreational lockage reductions.
Lock access reduction on the upper Mon would involve eliminating
weekend and holiday hours during summer. Both locks could only be
accessed commercially. The Morgantown lock would be reduced from
eight hours a day to eight hours on weekends and holidays only.
Col. William Graham, commander of the Pittsburgh District, said
the federal government is cutting back funds that support dams and
locks run by the USACE nationwide.
Maj. Christopher Scott, project manager with the USACE, said the
reduction of service on the locks depends on the number of
lockages each year, which is then broken up between commercial and
recreational lockages. According to a presentation by the USACE,
Opekiska and Hildebrand locks each had two commercial lockages in
the 2011 fiscal year, and numbers for recreational include 312 for
Opekiska and 169 for Hildebrand.
“The USACE is trying to prioritize which locks are the most
beneficial,” he said.
Scott said funding of the program, along with limited commercial
use, is the main cause of the possible restriction.
“We are willing to try anything — explore any idea — to keep these
locks open,” he said.
Closing the Opekiska and Hildebrand locks would block the
Hildebrand pool, which could alter fish passages and restrict
recreational passage altogether, as there is no public access to
that part of the Mon.
“No access is not acceptable,” said Barry Pallay, vice president
of the Upper Monongahela River Association (UMBRA).
He said the association will ask the corps to report its yearly
budgets and offer quarterly updates on the infrastructure of the
locks, among many other concerns for the abandoning of the locks.
Jared Harmon, president of the West Virginia Bass Federation,
thanked the corps for providing maintenance on the locks.
“With 350-400 members, we tend to see 20-30 boats at tournaments
on the Mon River. If the locks are closed, it would be harder to
get boats out there,” he said.
The proposed changes would likely take effect in October 2013.
COMMENTS ON the proposal can be sent to celrp-pa@usace. army.mil
or U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Upper Mon River Service
Reduction, 1000 Liberty Ave., 22nd Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.