Locks Still a Key Revenue Stream

Upper Monongahela River Association plan deserves our community’s support

Morgantown Dominion Post - EDITORIAL
31 December 2013

You’ll never feel entitled if you do your own fundraising. That might be one message streaming out of a proposal by the Upper Monongahela River Association (UMRA). In mid-December, the UMRA won the Mononogalia County Commission’s support in its efforts to reopen the locks and dams on the Monongahela River for recreational boating use. The commission agreed to serve as a conduit for funds the UMRA hopes to raise for this purpose. In 2012, the Army Corps of Engineers closed the Opekiska and Hildebrand locks to recreational boat use as a result of federal budget cuts. It also curbed service at the Morgantown lock. As a result, recreational boat use on the river has been severely limited, by and large, to its separate pools, separated by this series of locks and dams. Clearly, the best solution would be for the federal government to restore the Corps’ funding and we urge our congressional delegation to make that an issue. Restoring this funding is not just in the interest of the UMRA or any other interest group. It’s in the interest of our local economy and quality of life. As the UMRA’s president pointed out in our recent report, commercial traffic on the river is spotty, at best. Yet, from April through October the numbers of recreational boaters on the river has continued to increase. However, no one’s holding their breath on Washington restoring the Corps’ funding. What the UMRA is proposing instead, is raising the funds to keep the locks in service for 30 days during the boating season. Since the Corp can only negotiate with another government entity, the County Commission has stepped up and informed the Corps of the UMRA’s proposal. If the Corps agrees to the plan the county will disburse the funds to reopen the locks on certain days or hours. Obviously, the UMRA is going to need to raise these funds in the first place. But since this effort is in our entire community’s interest, hopefully many in the private and public sector will consider a contribution. Tourism groups, event planners and area boaters may also want to join this initiative and help. The Monongahela River flows directly through our community and is a revenue stream we cannot afford to ignore. We applaud the UMRA and the County Commission for their initiative to reopen these locks. As the federal and state governments face increasing budget pressures, grass-roots efforts are critical to reopening certain public facilities. These locks are a key economic resource in our community that we need to reopen.