Locks and Dams

Lawmakers To Corps: Don’t Reduce Service On Allegheny

A bipartisan group of lawmakers from Pennsylvania have urged the Corps of Engineers to maintain and even increase levels of service to locks and dams along the Allegheny River. While lockage and usage levels may have taken a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, they said, there is no reason to reduce service hours further, or to conclude that demand won’t return if they are properly staffed.

The November 17 letter to Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, commanding general of the Corps of Engineers, was signed by eight members of Congress, including Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman and Reps. Guy Reschenthaler, Glen “GT” Thompson, Chris Deluzio, Summer Lee, John Joyce and Mike Kelly.

The Allegheny River is more than 315 miles long and includes a watershed area of 11,747 square miles. In August, the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers were designated as a new Marine Highway route by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration.

Currently, Locks 2 and 3 on the Allegheny River operate at Level of Service (LOS) 2, which allows for two 10-hour daily shifts. In Fiscal 2022, these locks conducted 803 and 799 commercial lockages. The Pittsburgh Engineer District estimates that Locks 2 and 3 on the Allegheny River will drop below the lockage threshold to qualify for LOS 2 as early as FY27.

“Other locks along the Allegheny River face similar challenges and threats to lower already minimal service,” the letter said. “Locks 4 and 5 now operate at LOS 3, which allows for only one daily shift, and Locks 6 through 9 all operate at LOS 6 by appointment only, the lowest level of service. Volunteers in some of these communities have stepped up to ensure proper staffing at lockages for recreational users, but this is not a long-term solution.”

The members say they are “seeking a solution to the lockage hour issue through the Water Resources Development Act process,” but urge  Spellmon to pause any contemplated cuts to service levels in the meantime.