Keep locks open for boaters

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' plan to offset budget reductions by eliminating recreational use of the upper Allegheny River has been slow and methodical. But 2013 will see the river become a series of impoundments for recreational boaters, not a navigable river system. The lock-usage equation based on commercial tonnage is 80-plus years old and needs to change.

In the story “Idea floated” (Dec. 5), Armstrong County Commissioner Rich Fink noted that our members of Congress have the option to restore funding to the corps budget, but this would be a small step forward — not a solution.

The corps budget-cut proposal would end recreational traffic through the locks. Recreational-use funding appears to be reserved for Crooked Creek, Tionesta, Kinzua and other dams operated by the corps.

Why not continue to fund the upper Allegheny River? No other corps facilities on the Allegheny River system are being closed.

If the issue is lack of revenue, look at the locks and dams that are impacted. Numbers 6, 8 and 9 have federally leased hydro-electric power plants on them. How much revenue is generated at these facilities? The people who know these numbers don't share them.

Recreational use of the lock system has only a seasonal impact — mostly weekends and holidays — from Memorial Day through Labor Day. “Shifting resources” is Army Corps-speak for “We don't care about recreational boat traffic.”

Boaters don't care from which fat federal pocketbook funding comes, just find it and add recreational use to the list of corps priorities.

Preserve and maintain the Allegheny River lock and dam system.

Barry Ward


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