County Aims to Open Locks
will act as fund conduit
Morgantown Dominion Post
29 December 2013
By Ben Conley
The Monongalia County Commission will lend its support to
reopening the Monongahela River locks in the county by acting as a
conduit through which funds can pass en route to the Army Corps of
During its Dec. 18 meeting, the commission approved a letter to
the ACOE Pittsburgh District requesting permission to act as the
public pass-through for contributions. The letter also asks that
the Upper Monongahela River Association (UMRA) be allowed to
represent the commission in negotiating the agreement’s details.
The ACOE announced that budget cuts were behind a 2012 decision to
eliminate recreational use of the Opekiska and Hildebrand locks
and reduce service on the Morgantown lock.
UMRA President Barry Pallay said his group negotiated that the
ACOE man the locks for recreational use for a total of six days
this past boating season — roughly from April through October.
However, the government shutdown wiped out two of those days,
severely affecting a qualifying leg of a national BASS tournament.
Something needed to change, Pallay said.
“What we’re working on is a better fix to this problem,” he said.
“We ’re going to ask for something around 30 days between April
and October, and we’re going to use a contributed funds approach
in order to have the locks open.”
In other words, the UMRA is going to come up with a way to fund
the operation of the locks for those 30 days. Pallay said that the
going rate to have an ACOE employee man the lock is $61 per hour.
Pallay said this is “the best temporary solution to the problem of
our locks being closed.” He said the best long-term solution is
the ACOE operating them full-time like it has in the past.
Pallay said that once the ACOE approves the terms of the letter, a
committee will be formed for the purpose of raising the funds
needed to open the locks.
Because federal law states that the ACOE can only deal with public
entities, the county commission will act as a go-between.
“The Monongalia County Commission would be the public pass-through
body in which different groups that need the locks open for their
tournaments or events can use us to pass through to the Army Corps
of Engineers,” Commission President Eldon Callen said.
Pallay said that no matter how few the days are, it’s vital that
the river is not lost entirely as an economic resource.
“If you look now, we don’t have hardly any commercial traffic,” he
said. “So what we’re talking about is allowing the recreational
industry to grow and flourish as a replacement for some of that