US Army Corps of Engineers to Reduce Service at 3 Monongalia Cou - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

US Army Corps of Engineers to Reduce Service at 3 Monongalia County Locks

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MORGANTOWN -

The US Army Corps of Engineers held a public meeting Tuesday to discuss the future of several locks on the upper Monongahela River.

The Army Corps of Engineers has decided that three of the locks on the Upper Monongahela will see a reduction in service.

The announcement had many locals up in arms.

"Our representatives, our organizations object to closing Opekiska and Hildebrand permanently, and reducing Morgantown lock to Saturday and Sunday only. We say that that does not meet the minimal needs of West Virginia," said Barry Pallay, Vice President of the Upper Monongahela River Association.

As a waterway connecting Monongalia County to its neighbors, many locals are concerned about the impact closing the locks would have on things like the economy, riverfront growth and local fishing.

"I do a lot of fishing, I fish Prickett's a lot, but the next pool down, there ain't no boat ramps or nothing. So the only way we can't get there is the lock, and that's a good pool of water," said Henry Chisolm, a Farmington resident.

Financial strains and maintenance costs are the main reasons why 63 lesser-used locks nationwide will see a reduction in service.

In Monongalia County, the corps said the locks no longer maintained a commercial use. The Opekiska and Hildebrand locks have not been used commercially in more than two years.

The reduction in service could save the corps up to $400,000 a year. The locks will continue to be maintained, and the changes will not affect the dams, which are controllable from other locations.

Tuesday's meeting not only gave locals a chance to show their concerns, but also an opportunity to come up with a solution.

"What I'd really like to do, is see if there is some way, if somebody could come up with an idea, that as the federal government steps out if another entity can step in," said Col. Butch Graham with the US Army Corps of Engineers.

And some plans are already in motion.

While the corps is expected to stop control of the locks at the end of summer, it's working with local officials and organizations on a transitional plan where it may control the locks for another 30 to 50 days.

"Working with our federal and state folks, our local county folks, we believe we can reach some sort of compromise to get us through this coming year," said Pallay.

Several plans were discussed at the meeting.  Many public officials shared concerns for the closures and vowed to work toward keeping the locks open.  Morgantown Mayor Jim Manilla said during the meeting that city council will be discussing possible resolutions at its upcoming committee of the whole meeting.