Huntington District Hosts Ohio River Master Plan Webinar
Participants in a July 7 webinar hosted by the Corps of Engineers learned about the Corps’ work toward creation of an updated Ohio River Locks and Dams Regional Master Plan.
The document includes a vision for the next 20-25 years for six pool areas: Captain Meldahl, Greenup, Robert C. Byrd, Racine, Belleville and Willow Island, including the locks and dams along with boat ramps, campgrounds and other Corps-managed properties.
The plan does not call for any changes to the management of water flow and is not expected to impact navigation. However, it does have potential implication for the use of dredge spoil deposit areas and work combatting invasive species.
The Huntington district hosted the webinar in close conjunction with the Louisville district and the Great Lakes & Ohio River Division. Public comment is sought through July 21, two weeks following the meeting.
“We’re looking at a long-term vision here for the next 20-25 years as far as coming up with plans,” said Glenn Myrick, project manager. “You can think of this as a large, conceptual document. It doesn’t mean that everything in it is necessarily going to occur, but you can’t get started unless you have a plan.”
The Corps requires the plans to be updated every five years. Of particular importance with this update was integrating environmental policies into recreational plans and putting more focus on environmental stewardship, Myrick said.
Laura Mattingly, planner for the project, said that while such master plans are comprehensive, long-term and visionary and act as a land-use management guide, they do not include facility design details, operational or technical aspects of water management for water levels, flood risk, water supply or shoreline management.
“These objectives must maximize project benefits, meet public needs and foster environmental sustainability,” she said.
The plan must also be consistent with authorized project purposes, federal laws and directives, regional needs, resource capabilities and take public input into consideration.
Goals mentioned include: identifying opportunities to transfer some Corps-owned lands that can be operated and maintained by state and local entities; increasing recreational amenities; expanding and updating interpretive signs; increasing sidewalks, footpaths and trail networks; identifying and addressing sedimentation and erosion issues; prioritizing accessibility for cyclers and the disabled; developing and implementing an invasive species management plan; increasing community involvement; and protecting or restoring important habitats, including those for pollinators.
Mattingly then discussed the Corps’ vision more in-depth for the areas surrounding each of the six locks and dams.
One idea mentioned for three of the six properties—R.C. Byrd, Belleville and Willow Island—includes evaluating upland dredge disposal sites for multiple purposes, including potential opportunities for walking, hiking and birding and also promoting native plant species. When asked about this more, Mattingly acknowledged that while these areas are currently in use, they are sometimes used for illegal dumping, and the Corps wants to find a way to prevent that while also improving their aesthetics and perhaps making them usable for recreation.
At Meldahl, the plan includes planting native trees and grasses to re-establish bottomland species at the lock and dam site, rehabilitating the Garrison boat ramp and installing bat boxes.
In the Greenup district, the plan calls for studying hydrology and other environmental conditions at the locks and dam site to determine the ability to support a wetland community as well as implementing green infrastructure and establishing osprey nest platforms and bat boxes.
At Robert C. Byrd, interpretive signs could be increased and additional recreation areas opened to the public. The Corps would also seek to improve safety while also maintaining wildlife observation and fishing opportunities. The picnic area could be upgraded. The Corps would also monitor erosion that could impact mussel populations.
At Racine, the Corps could identify opportunities for streambank stabilization and preventing further erosion identify more opportunities for cultural resources outreach and education, and improve water quality and access to a fishing pond.
At Belleville, the Corps would like to identify strategies to reduce maintenance costs while ensuring function is maintained, identify opportunities to stabilize streambanks for fishing access, support the mussel population and expand viewing opportunities for navigation traffic.
At Willow Island, the plan calls for creating safe pathways both upstream and downstream of the lock chamber for pedestrian access to the shoreline and updating and enhancing the day-use area.
The Corps expects to finalize a draft of the master plan by October and to complete the plan after another review opportunity in January.
Comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent by mail to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ATTN: Ashley Stephens, 502 Eighth St., Huntington, W.Va., 25701. Please reference Ohio River Locks and Dams Master Plan Revision.
More information, including a copy of the slid presentation shown in the webinar, are available at the project website: https://www.lrh.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Current-Projects/Ohio-River-LD-Master-Plans/.