May 25–Plenty of people are expected to hit the region’s three rivers this Memorial Day holiday, but a local agency is warning boaters to be careful because not all warning buoys are in place for the season.
Those buoys are placed in the water to warn boaters about upcoming dams, which can be hard to see for those traveling downstream.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warned earlier this week that because of high waters, crews couldn’t place all of the warning buoys on the rivers before the start of the Memorial Day weekend.
The agency is urging boaters to exercise “extreme caution” on the rivers, especially anyone who is close to one of the 23 navigation dams in western Pennsylvania.
According to the agency, 11 of those 23 dams are ungated and difficult to see for boaters floating downstream. The dams present “life-threatening hazards for those unaware of their presence,” the agency said.
Late last May, two kayakers died after being swept over the Dashields Dam in Allegheny County. High water at the time pushed warning buoys out of place, and the dam is nearly undetectable from upriver.
In the absence of the completed buoy system this year, the Army Corps is asking boaters to consult navigation charts and river conditions before embarking on the rivers.
“Prior to launch, anyone recreating on the rivers should know where these potential hazards are located,” the agency commented in a news release.
The Army Corps said all buoys will eventually be set “when river conditions allow safe placement.”
In addition to warning boaters about the buoys, the Army Corps also advised that new safety protocols are in place for commercial and recreational vessels using the dams.
For recreational vessels, anyone standing up or “otherwise engaged in the locking process” in the dams is now required to wear a flotation device.
The same policy is now in effect for commercial tow boats and commercial passenger vessels.