Sept. 10–INDUSTRY — U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus visited the Montgomery Locks and Dam facility on Monday to view firsthand a crucial maintenance project underway there.
Rothfus, R-12, Sewickley, has toured the facility numerous times over the last several years in an attempt to advocate for federal funding for desperately needed renovations.
This time, however, work is finally underway on a $1.09 million project that will serve as a temporary repair to the “severely cracked and unstable” middle-lock wall at the Montgomery facility, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
That middle wall, which separates the lock’s two chambers, has a 50 percent chance of failing in the next 10 years if left unaddressed, according to engineers. If that wall would fail, it would completely halt all navigation on that section of the Ohio River, which could cause significant damage to the region’s economy.
The work on the temporary fix, being performed by a company from Columbus, Ohio, is expected to take about a year and a half.
Despite the optimism from local officials when the temporary project was announced, it’s seen by the Army Corps of Engineers as an “interim measure meant to slow the wall’s deterioration rate until a permanent fix can be performed.”
For his part, Rothfus said before touring the facility that he is going to keep pushing for federal funding for a permanent fix for the facility.
Calling the locks and dam system the “first interstate highway” system for commerce in the country, Rothfus said it’s “crucial” for Congress to approve a permanent fix to the aging infrastructure, which dates back to 1936.
“It’s a critical piece of infrastructure, and I’ll continue to advocate for it to my colleagues and the administration,” he said.
Rothfus added he’s been a leader in Congress in pushing for funding for the larger $2.7 billion Upper Ohio Navigation System, and that Monday’s visit represented a “checkup” to monitor progress on the temporary fix.
The Montgomery visit wasn’t the only reason for the congressman coming to Beaver County. Earlier Monday morning, he visited with workers at the Bruce Mansfield coal-fired plant in Shippingport and assured them he’s doing what he can to keep the plant open.
FirstEnergy Corp., which owns Bruce Mansfield and the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station, has said both plants will close within three years unless financial subsidies are enacted that could provide relief to the struggling facilities.
As he has in the past, Rothfus said he’s encouraged that President Donald Trump has directed the federal Department of Energy to study whether an emergency order is necessary to prop up struggling coal and nuclear facilities.
The only issue is that FirstEnergy has offered a concrete timeline for when closure activities might commence, and Trump’s directive to the Department of Energy came months ago.
“We’re still anxiously awaiting from the administration more definitive action,” Rothfus said. “I’m going to continue to press the case for that.”
Like he has the Montgomery facility, Rothfus has visited both the nuclear and coal plants multiple times in the last several years.