Resolution on Locks Approved

Cites ways to keep recreational use viable

Morgantown Dominion Post
8 August 2012
By Ben Conley

Morgantown City Council addressed the potential loss of access to the Monongahela River for city residents during Tuesday night’s regular meeting.

Council approved a resolution supporting the continued use of the Upper Monongahela River locks and suggesting ways in which the Army Corps of Engineers (COE) could avoid service reductions that would restrict access to the river.

Last month, officials with the COE, which is charged with running the locks on rivers in the region, explained that federal budget restrictions were behind proposed reductions in service that include making the Opekiska and Hildebrand locks accessible only to commercial traffic, eliminating all recreational use. It also proposed reducing the Morgantown lock from eight hours per day to eight hours on weekends and holidays only.

The resolution, passed, 5-0, by council, urges on congressional representatives to support funding studies on how the federal government can partner with states and communities to fund and operate river navigation facilities. It also supports the Upper Mon River Association (UMRA) recommendation to add support of recreational, river-based activities to the mission and duties of the COE to support their operation of navigable rivers.

Among the 14 recommendations in the resolution are:

Opening of the upper Mon locks for 45 days during the April 1 through October 31 boating season, including three-day weekends to facilitate fishing tournaments, and therefore generate revenue.

Use of contractual, temporary, part-time or seasonal employees or auxillary volunteer methods to provide lock operators other than full-time COE employees.

Provide means at the upper Mon locks for portage of canoes, kayaks and other small boats, around the locks.

Explore the possibility of remote control of lockages at the upper Mon locks from the Point Marion lock and dam.

“Recreationally, the Morgantown lock is used quite a bit for fishing and fishing tournaments, which generates a lot of people coming into Morgantown and spending their time and money in the community. Plus there is a concern about commerce coming through there,” Morgantown mayor Jim Manilla said.

“I think all of [the recommendations] are worthwhile,” councilman Wes Nugent said. “Sometimes we think that we shouldn’t be involved, but I think this is one that we definitely should be. It impacts our citizens and our businesses.”

In other business, Council:

Approved a first reading of an ordinance adding a new section to the city’s traffic code that prohibits the use of handheld electronic devices while driving.

Approved a first reading of an ordinance requiring a city-issued permit for the use of city infrastructure and property in motion photography production.

Mayor Manilla
announced that the Morgantown Farmers Market Pavilion construction is nearly complete. The project is expected to be finished near the end of the month, with an opening date set for Sept. 8.

Council members Ron Bane and Jenny Selin were not in attendance.