Casey urges Trump to restore money for Mon River locks and dams

June 13, 2017
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Col. John Lloyd talks with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey at Locks and Dam No. 4 in Charleroi during a visit last year. Casey is urging President Trump to include money to continue rehabilitation work on Monongahela River locks and dams in his proposed budget. - Scott Beveridge/Observer-Reporter Order a Print

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey urged President Trump on Monday to include money in his proposed budget to continue work on locks and dams on the Monongahela River, including the one in Charleroi.

Casey also criticized the president for suggesting that tolls be placed on those who navigate through locks on the river, something that “could ultimately lead to an exit of companies from the region,” the Democratic senator stated in a news release.

“I’m going to fight with everything I have to prevent this ill-advised budget proposal.” Casey said at a news conference aboard a Gateway Clipper sightseeing boat docked on the Mon in Pittsburgh.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been overseeing underfunded work on the Mon River between Braddock and Charleroi for decades. The plan calls for replacing a lock at Charleroi and removing a deteriorating dam in Elizabeth to improve navigation, especially for barge traffic moving coal and other goods by water.

Work is continuing at present in Charleroi, but Trump’s budget proposal fails to include any money for the Monongahela River project, Casey said.

The Trump proposal would cut $976 million from the Corps’ allocations in fiscal year 2018, nearly one-sixth of the $6 billion that was appropriated in 2017, Casey said.

“We’re in danger of losing vital economic opportunity,” Casey said. “Over 200,000 Pennsylvania jobs depend on the proper functioning of the locks and dams on the Lower Monongahela River.

Peter Stephaich, chairman and chief executive officer of Houston-based Campbell Transportation Co., which operates towboats and barges on the Mon, attended the conference and, he said, it’s frustrating how supporters of the project have to go back to Congress every year to seek money for the work.

“I stay out of politics, but we just want to see the job finished,” Stephaich said.

“Sen. Casey has been one of our big supporters,” he said.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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