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Sen. Casey: Defense bill would extend protection of Rivers of Steel, other Pa. national heritage areas

| Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014, 4:51 a.m.
Courtesy Rivers of Steel
A 2013 exhibit displayed by Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area at the Bost Building in Homestead recalled when steel mills lined the area's rivers, such as the Jones and Laughlin Steel Pittsburgh plant as shown in this 1951 photograph. Legislation moving through Congress would preserve Rivers of Steel and other national heritage areas through 2021.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
Rivers of Steel states as its mission to preserve and tell 'the dynamic and powerful story of the region’s evolution from colonial settlement to 'Big Steel' to the modern era.' In this 2013 presentation at the historic Pump House in Munhall, Rivers of Steel volunteer Eric Horgos holds a puddler, a tool that was used in the steelmaking process during the 19th century.

Language included in a congressional bill aimed at military operations would protect Rivers of Steel and other national heritage areas in Pennsylvania, Sen. Bob Casey said Tuesday.

The National Defense Authorization Act has passed in the House, and Casey said it likely will pass in the Senate this week.

Casey, D-Scranton, said it contains language to protect four Pennsylvania national heritage areas through 2021: Rivers of Steel, Lackawanna Heritage Valley and Schuylkill River Valley areas and the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.

Rivers of Steel covers the river valleys where industry once thrived in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

“Rivers of Steel is grateful to Sen. Casey for his strong support and leadership in pursuing the reauthorization of Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area,” said August Carlino, president and CEO of the Homestead-based Steel Industry Heritage Corp., which oversees the Rivers of Steel area. “We eagerly await its passage as a part of the National Defense Authorization Act.”

Casey said national heritage areas are designated by Congress as places where natural, cultural and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape.

Rivers of Steel includes such landmarks as the Carrie Furnaces Nos. 6 and 7, on the Rankin-Swissvale side of the Monongahela River, and Pinkerton's Landing, the Pump House and Water Tower in Munhall's portion of the Waterfront, the former U.S. Steel Homestead District Works.

The four national heritage areas are not mentioned by name in the bill, but a Casey spokesman said Section 3052 of the legislation, a House amendment to Senate Bill 1847, extends their authorization.

“Preserving these historic areas will protect Pennsylvania's history and boost our economy by attracting visitors from throughout the country,” Casey said. “Passing this legislation will give these communities more certainty by protecting these precious areas for another decade.”

The other national heritage areas cover 13 eastern counties including the metropolitan Philadelphia and Scranton-Wilkes Barre areas, the Lehigh Valley and the state's rural northeast.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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