Funding For Upper Ohio Project Included In Appropriations Bill

A Pennsylvania senator is using congressionally directed spending to include $21.5 million for the Upper Ohio Navigation System project in the fiscal year 2022 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill.

Congressionally directed spending is the new term for what was formerly called earmarks. 

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) announced the funding inclusion to modernize and upgrade capacity to Emsworth, Dashields and Montgomery lock chambers, the three oldest and smallest lock chambers on the Ohio River. Each of the locks and dams is more than 70 years old.

An August 10 news release from Casey’s office said that ensuring a safe, reliable, navigable and efficient network of locks and dams enables more than 76,000 jobs in southwestern Pennsylvania that rely on the Port of Pittsburgh waterways.

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“The Port of Pittsburgh and the region’s locks and dams play a vital role in the moving of commerce, creating and sustaining jobs and supporting economic growth throughout southwestern Pennsylvania,” Casey said. “This funding would modernize three critical lock chambers on the Ohio River, ensuring ships can reliably deliver and take cargo from Pittsburgh to the rest of the world. I will continue to work to pass this spending bill to bring home resources to southwestern Pennsylvania.”

Matt Smith, president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, an affiliate of the Allegheny Conference, praised the action.

“The Pittsburgh region’s rivers provide our businesses and their materials and products a competitive advantage and direct access to the global marketplace through our inland waterway system and are critical to our economy and quality of life,” he said. “Our partners, especially the Port of Pittsburgh Commission, confirm that a failure of one of these locks would shut down the nation’s fourth-largest inland port—the Pittsburgh Port District—negatively impacting our regional economy, putting as many as 76,000 jobs on the line, jeopardize our drinking water systems and harm our overall quality of life. We applaud Senator Casey’s past and continued support for modernizing the Upper Ohio Navigation System via this critical investment, and the inclusion of his request for congressionally directed spending in the Fiscal Year 2022 U.S. Senate Energy and Water Development Subcommittee Appropriations bill. We respectfully urge Senator Casey’s colleagues to include this provision through final passage.”

Mary Ann Bucci, Port of Pittsburgh executive director, also stressed the importance of completing the work at the lock chambers.

“Senator Casey has taken the lead on our inland waterways projects for many years,” he said. “We are grateful for his leadership, continued support and the funding for the Upper Ohio Navigation Project that will replace our aging infrastructure on the Ohio River.”

On August 4, the FY22 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill was reported out of committee on a vote of 25 to 5.