Thursday, March 31, 2011

Federal Budget to Blame for Closing of Two Locks

Recreational boaters will no longer be able to access service to Locks 9 and 8 (Rimer and Templeton) along the Allegheny River. The two locks will be closed along with elimination of 24 hour service to Lock 2 near the Highland Park Bridge and Lock 4 in Natona. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was forced to close the locks after their budget for water navigation was cut to 4 million dollars, about 50% of their current allocation.

Richard Lockwood, Chief of Operations for the Pittsburgh division of the Corps , says that "Congress created the locks and only Congress can close them" in reference to the 2011-2012 federal budget prompting the cuts.

He says the Army Corps of Engineers worked with the community to compromise on which locks will close. "With the funding that is authorized for us for the Allegheny River, we actually went out and met with out commercial constituents, our commercial customers, our recreational customers, elected officials. We had a series of public meetings, and those conversations and those meetings shaped the plan that we're offering today."

Armstrong County Commissioner Richard Fink says that the locks provide tourism to the county and a loss of them would not be acceptable. "Theoretically what happens right now unless we can find a resolution in 8 and 9 locks, that turns into two lakes, two large lakes in the northern end of Armstrong County."

Fink says County Commissioners are trying to work out ways which would allow them to keeps locks open to recreational boaters and tourism.

The cuts to the locks are scheduled for October 1st when as many as 18 employees will be reassigned to other posts .

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