Effort to open Allegheny River locks moving forward slowly
A nonprofit is mired within bureaucratic channels that are making it unclear whether its efforts to reopen four locks to recreational boaters along the upper Allegheny River will succeed before summer.
The Allegheny River Development Corp. has been working for more than a year with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a program that would allow the ARDC to operate the locks for 560 hours a season. The ARDC would need to raise $150,000 a year to pay for operation of the locks.
But getting the pilot program out of the docks has been a process slower than ARDC board members had anticipated.
“It's so cumbersome, said Linda Hemmes, ARDC board president. “I feel like I'm walking in concrete boots in a bog.”
The proposal is at the Corps of Engineers headquarters in Washington and must be approved by the Office of Management and Budget and the Senate and House appropriations committees. Once it receives preliminary approval, it will go back to these groups for final approval.
The proposal calls for Armstrong County to be a pass-through agency that would handle the money the ARDC would pay to the Corps for operating the locks, but the county has no financial or other interest in the proposal.
The ARDC has requested that the Corps consider at least 14 days of operation — which include dates involving the Allegheny River Poker Run, summer festivals and free concerts — even if the pilot proposal does not receive approval before these events.
While waiting for approval, ARDC wants to raise $100,000 in the next few months to pay for operation of the locks during those 14 days it has requested they be opened.
Raffle tickets to win a 22-foot pontoon boat with a motor and trailer are available throughout the county for $20 a ticket. The drawing is tentatively set for Aug. 23.
ARDC board members hope to raise additional funds during a fundraising event on June 6 in the Baja Bar and Grill at Fox Chapel Yacht Club — which will include a poker run, a 50/50 raffle and Chinese auction. The cost of admission to the fundraiser has not been determined. Hemmes said ARDC members, and those belonging to Fox Chapel and Oakmont yacht clubs, will have an opportunity to buy the first 500 tickets to the event. After that, additional tickets will be available to the general public.
“I feel confident that we'll have well over $100,000 in place by July,” Hemmes said.
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.