Casey seeks more money for river projects

February 15, 2013
A view of the work in 2009 to build a new lock wall at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Locks and Dam No. 4 in Charleroi - Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey announced Friday his plan to introduce federal legislation that would authorize millions of additional dollars in investment in the underbudgeted Monongahela River navigation improvement project, including work in Charleroi.

The Democratic lawmaker from Pennsylvania is seeking up to $37 million more a year in the proposed Reinvesting in Vital Economic Rivers and Waterways Act of 2013 to ensure the locks and dams projects stay on schedule for completion.

“Our region’s locks and dams play a vital role in the moving of commerce, creating and sustaining jobs, and supporting economic growth throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania,” Casey stated in a news release. “It’s critical that we maintain and upgrade these waterways.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is years behind schedule due to federal funding cuts on replacing locks in Charleroi and performing related river dredging work in order to remove an aging dam in Elizabeth and shorten the amount of time tow boats spend locking through river channels.

Casey’s act, which will be introduced following this recess, would protect more 200,000 jobs in industries that depend on the river to move products, his office said.

The Mon project was authorized by Congress in 1992 after it was determined that portions of the locks and dams, including another in Braddock, were crumbling and dangerous. Yet, the work was underfunded in nearly every federal infrastructure bill since that time.

President Obama’s Recovery Act authorized another $67 million for the work, including construction in 2010 of a new lock chamber in Charleroi, when the project was already 5 years behind schedule for completion. Workers in December demolished one lock wall in order to create a new locking chamber.

Casey’s bill also would place as much as $740 million into the waterways trust fund over two decades, using money collected from the gasoline tax.

“This legislation is about increasing investments in our waterways and reforming the current process to reduce waste and limit cost overruns. This bill will make our waterways more effective and efficient,” Casey stated in a news release.

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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