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Armstrong nonprofit seeks help to reopen river locks

| Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

An Armstrong County nonprofit seeking to reopen the locks along the upper Allegheny River is urging recreational boaters and businesses to join the organization and help raise funds in time for spring — for a possible return to operational hours at Locks 6 through 9.

Linda Hemmes, president of the Allegheny River Development Corp., said on Thursday that there is a reasonable chance the locks will be open in late April.

But, she said, it is crucial for boaters and business owners to step up if they want that to happen.

“We need them to join ARDC so we have a louder voice,” Hemmes said.

Locks 6, 7, 8 and 9 are located south to north at Clinton, Kittanning, Templeton and Rimer.

ARDC, partnering with the Upper Monongahela River Association, hopes to operate under a federal pilot program using contributed funds for a venture, Hemmes said, that has never been done anywhere in the country.

The group is submitting a request for the pilot program to the Water Resources Bill Conference Committee, Hemmes said.

The contributed funds program would allow ARDC to raise the necessary funds to pay the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to operate the locks from late April through mid-October.

An estimated $200,000 is needed to provide operational costs for about 560 hours per season, Hemmes said. In addition to the normal weekend times, those 560 hours include lockages on July 4, Labor Day, Memorial Day and during the annual poker run and Arts on the Allegheny concerts.

Once the funds are raised, the program requires the nonprofit to pass the money through a government agency, which in this case would be Armstrong County, Hemmes said.

As a pass-through agency, the county would then write a check to the Corps to pay for the operational hours needed to open the locks.

According to Hemmes, a member of the Corps' Pittsburgh District told her on Thursday that ARDC has a 180-day timeline to meet all of those requirements.

Hemmes said that barring any unforeseen delays, it is very possible that ARDC's goal of reopening the locks to recreational boaters will become a reality in 2014.

To become a member or make a donation, visit AlleghenyRiverDevelopment.org.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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