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
“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,
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.