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
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
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.