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Congress slates $65M for local locks, dams

| Thursday, Nov. 17, 2005

Western Pennsylvania's water commerce received a boost this week when Congress set aside more than $65 million to update several of the region's important locks and dams that have been crumbling and cracking for nearly a century.

The money represents 80 percent of the state's share of federal money set aside for dam repair in 2006.

Almost $51 million will be devoted to an ongoing project to improve locks and dams on the Monongahela River, and another $15 million is budgeted for Emsworth Lock and Dam on the Ohio River. The bill was approved by the Senate on Monday. President Bush is expected to sign the measure.

Since 1992, the Pittsburgh District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been replacing Lock and Dam 2 in Braddock and 4 in Charleroi, Washington County, and removing Lock and Dam 3 in Elizabeth, all on the Mon. The $750 million project is expected to be finished in 2019.

"The locks and dams are very important because of all the power plants on the upper Mon that all rely on coal getting up through there," said Mike Brinza, a port development analyst for the Port of Pittsburgh Commission. "And then, of course, there are a lot of coal mines that happen to be connected to docks on the upper Mon, and that coal has to move downriver."

Between 40 million and 50 million tons of coal, sand, gravel, steel and other commercial goods travel on the region's waterways every year, making the Port of Pittsburgh the nation's second-busiest inland port, Brinza said.

The locks and dams on the lower Mon are the three oldest operating navigation facilities on the river and experience the Mon's highest volume of commercial traffic, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

The ongoing $78 million Emsworth Lock and Dam project includes replacing the gates and gate-hoisting machinery, electrical power and distribution system, and debris protection system.

Congress also approved $1.275 million to continue a long-term feasibility study of the Emsworth, Dashields and Montgomery locks and dams in Allegheny and Beaver counties and $750,000 to "daylight" -- or uncover -- streams now running through municipal sewers and reroute them into natural stream channels in Sheraden Park in Pittsburgh and Stowe.

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