Local agencies help Pittsburgh Coast Guard find missing barges

The Dominion Post

Jan. 25–Personnel and assets from the Monongalia County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the Morgantown Fire and Police departments found two barges missing since high water and ice floes played havoc with the vessels at Pittsburgh’s Emsworth Lock and Dam on Jan. 13.

Harold Sperringer, chief deputy with the Monongalia County OEM, appeared at Wednesday’s regular commission meeting.

Sperringer explained that he, along with Mike Fortney (OEM); Nick Schmidle and James Smith II, of the Morgantown Police Department; and Doug Sharp and John Moore, of the Morgantown Fire Department, answered a plea for help from Leon McClain, the U.S. Coast Guard commander based in Pittsburgh.

Sperringer said McClain was interested in bringing aerial drones and sidescan sonar equipment used by the local agencies to help in the cleanup.

Sperringer said the local contingent reported to the Emsworth Lock and Dam on Sunday.

“At that time, the sidescan sonar was conducted by Morgantown Police and Fire. They were able to locate both barges,â€� he said, explaining that he and Fortney flew a drone upstream to look for more potential problems.

“We were able to find at least three different ice jams that are still in their same position as far as we can tell, but they’ll be headed toward Pittsburgh real soon,â€� Sperringer said. “The ice jams are each at least a mile in length and anywhere up to 6 or 8 feet thick.â€�

Sperringer said the group would be ready and willing to help again if needed.

Commission President Tom Bloom said he was proud that the local agencies are held in such regard by neighbors in Pittsburgh.

“It really speaks volumes of the program that we have here that they contacted us … to go up there and work with them,â€Â? Bloom said. “I appreciate that. I’m glad we have that great working relationship, but it also says a lot about your program and Morgantown’s. Everyone needs to be congratulated on that.â€Â?

The commission also heard from County Clerk Carye Blaney, who said election Precincts 23 and 25 will be held in the WVU Alumni Center.

The polls were originally moved from the Star City St. Mary Catholic Church to the Knights of Columbus building, but Blaney recently learned that building also will not be available.

The commission also:

Approved changes to the grant application agencies need to submit to get money from the commission. The changes will require some supplemental data, like financial reports and officer/board member contact lists.

The applications must be returned to the commission by 4 p.m. Feb. 24.

Commissioner Sean Sikora said that by this time next year, “This will be an online processâ€� using the county’s new website.

Approved $2,750 for legal firm Steptoe Johnson to review the county’s personnel handbook.

Approved a proclamation making Monongalia County a “Purple Heart Countyâ€� by request of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Follow The Dominion Post on Twitter @DominionPostWV. Email Ben Conley: bconley@dominionpost.com.

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.