Allegheny River lock 2 to close to all boat traffic for repairs |
Valley News Dispatch

Allegheny River lock 2 to close to all boat traffic for repairs

Mary Ann Thomas
Deteriorating concrete on the interior walls of the inner chamber at Lock & Dam #2 in Pittsburgh threaten the gears that open and close the gates for water craft entering the lock, as seen on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016.
Tim Jones, equipment mechanic at Lock and Dam #2 in Pittsburgh, walks near a deteriorating cement wall on the inside of the lock chamber on Feb. 19, 2016.
Deteriorating concrete on the interior walls of the entrance to the inner chamber at Lock & Dam #2 in Pittsburgh, as seen on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016.

After years of chasing money for repairs, the Army Corps of Engineers is ready to start a $6.6 million project to fix the crumbling land wall of Allegheny River lock 2 near Highland Park.

Recreational boaters and commercial traffic will be out of luck as the lock chamber will be closed to all boat traffic starting Aug. 5 and remain closed for much of August, September and part of October.

The 56-foot-by-360-foot lock chamber will be open on Labor Day weekend and for other short periods with restrictions. It will fully reopen Nov. 1, according to the Corps’ work schedule.

The closure of the popular lock caught recreational boaters by surprise. They weren’t expecting such a long closure during the short boating season.

The 87-year-old lock at mile 6.7 on the Allegheny River is the busiest lock for recreational boaters in the Pittsburgh area. It receives an average of 3,000 recreational lockages annually, according to the Corps. It also receives about 1,000 commercial vessels annually, the Corps said.

“A lot of boaters aren’t happy, and they don’t understand why this is happening during boating season,” said Brad Evanovich, owner and operator of the Docks at Bell Harbor in O’Hara, which has about 70 slips for pleasure boats.

“They thought the closure was a joke that they are not going to be able to lock through to the city for most of August,” he said.

Concerts and baseball games are among favorite destinations for boaters that dock at Bell Harbor. A boat trip to the city, including locking, usually takes about an hour, Evanovich said.

The Corps has been working on the lock’s maintenance schedule for about two years, according to Carol Vernon, a spokeswoman for the Corps in Pittsburgh.

“We know it is inconvenient,” she said. “However, the Corps and inland industry worked together in advance to plan this work that had to be done to maintain the integrity of the lock.”

She said the Corps has to work with the lock’s primary stakeholder — industry operators that provide funding for the operation of locks and dams. In fact, the locks and dams were constructed on the Allegheny to provide slack water for reliable transportation for industry.

“We had to work with industry to come up with the time of year for the maintenance project so that they could still provide commerce throughout the nation,” Vernon said.

The project focuses on resurfacing the concrete on the face of the land wall in the lock chamber, where there has been extensive deterioration, according to David Heidish, the Corps’ Pittsburgh District operations and maintenance navigation project manager.

The project does not improve the electrical or mechanical operating equipment for the lock chamber.

Commercial operators are aware of the ongoing construction work, and navigation notices are posted in regards to closures and width restrictions, Heidish said.

The Corps operates 23 locks and dams on the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers.

The federal agency has been trying to repair the crumbling lock walls at lock 2 and at lock 3 in Plum since at least 2009.

There has been a backlog of deferred maintenance on the Allegheny River because it is considered a low-use waterway for commercial vessels. Projects on the Allegheny vie for money with Corps projects across the country, and it falls lower on the priority list than projects on waterways with higher commercial tonnage such as the Ohio River, according to the Corps.

The schedule for lock 2 is subject to change, the Corps said in a navigation notice. All boaters should monitor marine radio channel 13 for updates or changes during periods of chamber closures and width restrictions.

Here is the schedule as it stands now, according to a Corps navigation notice:

7 a.m. Aug. 5 – 7 a.m. Aug. 26, full chamber closure

7 a.m. Aug. 26 – 5 a.m. Sept. 9, chamber open with 35-foot width restriction

7 a.m. Sept. 9 – 6 p.m. Sept. 27, full chamber closure

6 p.m. Sept. 27 – 5 a.m. Sept. 30, chamber open with 35-foot width restriction

5 a.m. Sept. 30 – 10 a.m. Oct. 18, full chamber closure

10 a.m. Oct. 18 – 10 a.m. Oct. 31, chamber open with 35-foot width restriction

10 a.m. Oct. 31 – 2 a.m. Nov. 1, full chamber closure

2 a.m. Nov. 1, chamber fully open

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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