Area Locks are Open this Weekend for Recreation Boaters 

Corps: Openings coincide with 2-day bass tournament

Morgantown Dominion Post
24 May 2013
By David Beard

The Morgantown, Opekiska and Hildebrand locks on the Monongahela River will be open to recreation boaters from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District announced the openings to coincide with an invitational bass tournament both days at Pricketts Fort.

The Morgantown Locks are typically open 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday, the Corps said, while the other two are open only to commercial traffic by appointment.

Federal budget cuts forced the Corps to limit hours or cease recreational traffic on locks across the nation with low commercial traffic, said Barry Pallay with the Upper Monongahela River Association (UMRA).

The special local weekend hours — along with similar hours for tournaments set for June 22-23 and Oct. 5-6 — are the result of an arrangement UMRA reached with the Corps, Pallay said.

UMRA has worked with the Pittsburgh Corps for 10 years to keep the locks open and following the recent round of cuts that led to the two lock closures, “We told corps, ‘We will work with you on some innovative way to keep the locks open, at least in part.’ ”

A first proposal didn’t pan out: UMRA and a new, private entity would take over operation of the locks under Corps oversight. The Corps determined that would be too difficult, Pallay said.

So now they’re working a new arrangement — called a “contributed funds” approach — to keep the locks open to recreational traffic for some summer hours. There are two possible ways to contribute money to the Corps to help keep the locks operating: Through a private nonprofit or a public entity.

Pallay said UMRA is attempting the nonprofit route. The group would be authorized to accept donations to pass on to the Corps. A Pittsburgh group is using the public approach to keep some Allegheny River locks open.

In an April letter from UMRA, Pallay asked Pittsburgh Corps Col. Bernard Lindstrom to take the lead in resolving some policy issues that complicate completing a contributed funds arrangement. Last week, Lindstrom replied to Pallay, saying the Pittsburgh District is forwarding a package to Corps headquarters expressing its support for the necessary changes.

While the contributed funds issue is being worked out, Pallay said, UMRA suggested the Corps to permit some fishing tournaments that would allow the three local locks to be open to all recreational traffic on certain weekends.

The Corps made a commitment to help UMRA with this back in July 2012, Pallay said. “This is really a big deal. … We appreciate what they’re doing honoring that commitment.”

Opening the locks to recreational traffic has benefits beyond a few limited tournaments, Pallay said. Recreational river traffic brings tourist and recreational money into the local economy, so the more they’re open, the better.

This weekend’s invitation-only tournament is sponsored by the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation of West Virginia.