Lock and Dam Drained for Repairs
Morgantown Dominion Post
22 October 2014
By Conor Griffith
From your car to your kitchen, the Monongahela River is more than
just a body of water that bisects the county.
Richard Lockwood, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh
District, said about 800 tons of cargo move down the Mon to
Pittsburgh every year, a 102-mile journey — and facilities like
the Morgantown Lock and Dam are vital to keeping that traffic
Cranes from the Corps of Engineers’ repair fleet are at the
facility to make some much needed repairs. Also helping with the
repairs are tug boats, barges and more than 70 craftsmen.
In order to make repairs on the lock, the pool was drained,
leaving a muddy lane which is usually filled with 20 feet of
Lockwood said draining the pool hasn’t happened at the facility
since the 1990s.
The water was drained so crews could access the concrete
underneath the lock gates. Previous diving inspections revealed
cracks in the concrete, allowing water to seep out of the pool
used by vessels to pass the dam.
The lock gates themselves were removed and placed onto one of the
fleet’s barges until the repairs are finished. Then they will be
put back. Some of the barges are host to machine shops to produce
the things needed to get the job done.
“We’re kind of in the business of restoring antiques,” Lockwood
said. “This facility was built back in 1959. A lot of the parts
they need are no longer available so they’re very good at
restoring parts or producing their own.”
Chuck Beckham, general foreman for the facility, said the energy
to pump all the water out was provided by generators on the repair
Lockwood said the Corps also will repair two of the dam’s six
gates, which are inoperable. He said the fleet is expected to be
in the area until Nov. 5.
Lockwood said the Morgantown Lock and Dam needed the repairs for
about two years, but funds for repairs are allocated based on
commercial tonnage that passes through each dam. The upper Mon
River is in the mid-funding range. The Corps has about $15-$18
million a year for operations and maintenance for the river.
“This river is an essential infrastructure and it’s critical that
these facilities be maintained,” said Barry Pallay, the president
of the nonprofit Upper Monongahela River Association (UMRA).
Pallay said the Mon River saw a drop in commercial use when the
Clean Air Act went into effect because high sulfur coal, which
made up much of the river traffic, was no longer viable.
Still, the river serves as an inexpensive way to move large
quantities of coal to riverside power plants and gasoline to area
fuel stations. He said the river also provides drinking water to
100,000 people locally and even more in the Pittsburgh area.
Pallay said UMRA hopes to see more recreational boating on the
river and more commercial use as the oil and natural gas
industries ramp up.
He said it’s vital that Congress provide the Corps with the funds
it needs to maintain lock and dam facilities since there’s not
enough money to build new ones.
Lockwood said the Olmsted Locks and Dam, under construction on the
Ohio River, has a price tag of $2.9 billion.