Money Flowing to Lower Mon Work to Replace Aging Locks and Dams

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Sep 14, 2018
8:02 AM

By Len Boselovic
lboselovic@post-gazette.com

Long-delayed work to replace aging locks and dams on the Monongahela River received a boost Thursday when Congress overwhelmingly approved a spending measure that contains money for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The appropriations bill includes full funding for the Corps’ top five priority projects, including the Lower Mon work authorized by Congress more than 20 years ago.

The measure now goes to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.

Congress approved $326.5 million in funding for major river infrastructure projects for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 4. Mr. Trump’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget only called for $35 million. The measure was backed by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who said the funding will “cover the full capability of the Lower Mon project.”

The barge industry has covered half of the cost of the projects through a tax on diesel fuel. But Congress has decreased the industry’s share of the funding to 15 percent on two of the priority projects.

The Corps has 60 days following enactment of the bill to decide how the money will be spent.

When Congress authorized replacing Mon River locks and dams at Braddock, Elizabeth and Charleroi in 1992, the project was expected to cost $750 million and be completed by 2004.

The dam at Elizabeth, slated to be removed, is 111 years old. The 23 sets of locks and dams on Pittsburgh’s three rivers are among the oldest maintained by the Corps.

They are used to move coal, petroleum products and other commodities.

Inconsistent funding has delayed the Lower Mon project and increased the cost to $1.2 billion or more, depending on how much of the work Congress initially authorized is funded.

Len Boselovic: lboselovic@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1941.

First Published September 14, 2018, 8:00am

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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.