Fix the Locks: Don’t Miss This Chance to Repair Vital Waterways

By the Editorial Board, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

May 24, 2016 12:00 AM

When a road is closed for construction, motorists can take a detour. When repairs close a lock on one of the area’s rivers, barges literally have no where to turn. Mary Ann Bucci, executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission, made the point Saturday in a story about long-needed replacement of three locks — Emsworth, Dashields and Montgomery — on the Upper Ohio River.

The Senate last week passed a $37.5 billion appropriations bill that would cover maintenance for local locks and continue funding significant improvements to those on the Lower Monongahela River. (The bill also would fund many other energy and water projects nationwide.)

While the Senate vote is good news, other improvements to navigation are urgently needed. Additional legislation is needed to authorize and fund the replacement of the three locks on the Upper Ohio, and the Army Corps of Engineers must complete a feasibility study on the lock replacements before the money could start flowing for those projects. The work is long overdue.

The Post-Gazette has thoroughly reported on the deteriorating condition of locks on the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers, and about the economic harm that results when locks must close for emergency repairs. Traffic backs up. Cargoes are delayed. When time is lost, money is, too. It is nearly inconceivable that river navigation, pivotal to the region’s birth and long tied to its prosperity, is in so tenuous a state.

The 2008 federal stimulus provided a ready-made opportunity for sweeping navigational improvements on the Ohio and Mississippi river systems. While that opportunity was lost (water over the dam, so speak), the chance now to overhaul locks on the Upper Ohio must not be.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Waterways Council, Inc.