Area Officials Continue to Talk Trash

Morgantown Dominion Post
22 April 2004
By Evelyn Ryan

Trash talk reappeared at the Monongalia County Commission on Wednesday.

A meeting of area officials and others interested in finding a solution to floating debris accumulating behind the Morgantown Lock and Dam is set for 1:30 p.m. today at the Radisson Hotel.

Commissioner Bob Bell, who called the session, reminded fellow commissioners John Pyles and Asel Kennedy of the time. Bell, who ran on a "clean up Monongalia County" campaign, has been successful everywhere but with the river trash.

Representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been invited to attend, along with Morgantown Mayor Ron Justice.

"We hope to put together a group to resolve the issue," Bell said.

The sight of logs, branches, empty plastic soda and laundry supply bottles, even basketballs floating down the river in the middle of the day is not only a litter problem, but is an eyesore for visitors.

Adding to concerns, but not on the agenda today, is the schedule the three West Virginia navigational locks on the Monongahela River will keep this summer.

As of April 1, according to the Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District, the Point Marion Lock and Dam, and all locks downstream (north) will operate 24 hours daily. The Morgantown Lock and Dam is operating on this schedule until November: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and 12:30-8:20 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

The Opekiska and Hildebrand Locks and Dams, south of Morgantown, only operate Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from 12:30-8:20 p.m., through November.

Commercial tows requiring lockage desiring after-hours transit through Morgantown, Hildebrand and Opekiska must contact Point Marion lock and dam to make an appointment. Because of limited staffing, no lockages will be made between 11 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. at Opekiska or Hildebrand.

"The lock hours for the Upper Mon are now reduced to the point where recreational boating runs from Morgantown to Fairmont and back in one day are now impossible," said Don Strimbeck, secretary for the Upper Monongahela River Association.

"Now, if I want to make the 30-mile run to Fairmont, it will have to be on a Saturday or Sunday or holiday, and one way, leaving the boat at Woods Boathouse on Tygart River, then go back the next day or next weekend to make the run back home to Granville."

He's hopeful that a Corps of Engineers study on automating the locks so they can be operated 24/7 will support the idea. The Corps study is being financed through funds obtained by Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, D-W.Va.

Ron Hudok, in Mollohan's office, said the Corps has drafted a report on its preliminary findings for the lock automation study.

Strimbeck said he's seen a copy of the preliminary report, and it appears to validate the practicability of remote operation of the Morgantown, Hildebrand and Opekiska locks by the Point Marion lock.