Shutdown Locks Down Mon River

Affects boat traffic, bass tournament

Morgantown Dominion Post
3 October 2013
By David Beard

The federal government shutdown is rippling into the Monongahela River this weekend.

The Upper Mon locks — Morgantown, Opekiska and Hildebrand — won’t be open as originally planned, said Dan Jones, public affairs specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District. He said the closure is a result of the shutdown.

The locks closure will in turn have an effect on a planned bass tournament based at Pricketts Fort, said Tim Mitchem, with the BASS Nation of West Virginia. The Nation’s Northern Qualifier, set for Saturday and Sunday, will continue but will be confined to the pool at Pricketts Fort.

The closure announcement came too late for the organization to change the location, Mitchem said. He’s not sure yet how the closure will affect attendance. About 50 boats were scheduled to be there.
“Once guys see the locks aren’t going to open, we could have guys drop out,” he said.

The closure will also affect the fishing, he said. It will put more pressure on that one pool and will probably affect the catch rate, especially the second day, as contestants have to return to the same spots.
The tournament starts at 7 a.m. each day, he said. Weigh-ins begin at 4 p.m.

“There’s nothing we can do about it,” Mitchem said. “We ’ll do the best we can.”

Barry Pallay, with the Upper Monongahela River Association (UMRA), foresees a bigger impact from the locks closure: Economics. “The Upper Mon has been an economic engine in the past,” he said.

The special weekend hours, along with similar hours for tournaments set in May and June, were the result of an arrangement UMRA reached with the Corps, Pallay said. But this weekend, boaters who planned to sail south from Pittsburgh or north from Fairmont won’t be able to.

That means they won’t be here to enjoy the area and spend money, he said.

Department of Environmental Protection secretary Randy Huffman spoke at a Morgantown press conference last week regarding the tournament, the Upper Mon locks and their economic impact.

Learning about the lock closure Wednesday, he said, “This is an example of how the fishery would be affected on a permanent basis if the locks were closed for good. All of the revenue generated for the local economy from this recreational activity would be at risk because large tournaments could not be held if access were confined to a small stretch of river.