Locks and Dams Budget Created

Morgantown Dominion Post
16 October 2014
By Ben Conley

The Monongalia County Commission created budget line items Wednesday in preparation for its role as a government pass through for funding the operation of the locks and dams on the Upper Monongahela River.

The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced in 2012, that federal budget cuts forced the elimination of recreational use of the Opekiska and Hildebrand locks and a dramatic reduction in service at the Morgantown lock.

Commissioner Eldon Callen said he’s worked closely with the Upper Monongahela River Association (UMRA) and the Marion County Commission to ensure the river - specifically in regard to recreation - continues to be an economic engine.

“About a year and a half ago, a new [USACE] colonel came in and basically told us this is never going to work,” Callen said. “They said this would never happen. Well, it’s happened.”

Once final negotiations are complete, the locks will essentially be pay to play. Events will need to be  scheduled by a certain date and the negotiated rate paid to the commission in order to have the USACE man the lock or locks. The commission will then pass those funds on to the USACE.

In December, UMRA President Barry Pallay said the rate to have a USACE employee operate a lock was $61 per hour.

Callen said the journey to this point has required approvals all the way up to a U.S. Senate committee. It was worth the effort, he explained, because the river is too valuable a resource to be written off.

“The way the Army Corps of Engineers calculate things now, it’s strictly industry - are you moving consumer products? There is no credit given at all for recreational boating, bass tournaments, things like that,” Callen said. “I think that needs to be changed. It needs to be looked at as a water way that’s an economic source.”

In other news from Wednesday’s meeting, Commissioner Tom Bloom offered a reminder that fans can visit morgantownprobaseball.com to vote for one of 10 finalists in the Name the Team contest for the minor league baseball team that will suit up in the New York - Penn League during the summer.

The finalists are; Coal Kings, Coal Sox, Black Bears, Moonshiners, Muskets, Canaries, The Energy, The Wonder, Wild Ones and Black Diamonds.

Callen said he enjoyed some of the names, but felt compelled to speak out in hopes that one of the finalists will be rejected.

“Moonshiners, that’s awful. Now, if you’re a fraternity guy or something, you probably think it’s cute or funny, but if you’ve traveled like I have throughout the United States and Canada and say you’re from West Virginia, you are called that and it’s not nice. It’s a derogatory term,” Callen said, later adding, “I know for one thing, I would never put a T-shirt on my grandson that said anything like Moonshiner.”

Bloom explained that no decision has been made on what the geographic identifier in the team’s name will be.

Voting ends Friday. The three names with the most votes will go to Rich Baseball Operations, who will make the final decision.