After a sharp cut this year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District has received $176.3 million in new federal funding for the 2015 fiscal year.
“It’s more than we received last year, it’s pretty much standard for what we received in the past few years,” spokesman Dan Jones said. “But last year was just an anomaly.” The Corps received approximately $110 million for fiscal year 2013-14.
According to Jones, they plan to use the funding to improve the region’s inland waterways navigation system, enhance the environment and decrease the risk of flooding in the Upper Ohio River Valley.
“We’re getting approximately $58.1 million for operations and maintenance on the Allegheny, Mon and Ohio Rivers,” Jones said. “Of that, the Ohio River is getting about $30.8 [million], the Mon is getting about $22.6 [million] and the Allegheny is getting about $4.7 [million].”
However, Jones said the Corps needs more funding to rehabilitate outdated locks and dams.
“For some of our projects it’s providing much needed funding,” Jones said. “For others, you know such as our locks and dams on the river, our navigation projects, you know every little bit helps but the condition of many of our facilities on the rivers are such that we would need a lot more money to rehabilitate many of our structures.”
Jones said the funding for a project is broken down by how much work can be done in a year.
The budget includes $9 million for the Lower Monongahela River Project to rehabilitate the locks and dams in Braddock, Charleroi and Elizabeth.
“Our locks and dams, they have a design life of 50 years and most of them are over that, some of them are over a hundred years old,” Jones said. “So we just keep having to, you know, patch them or just repair them and at some point we’re going to need to do a major rehabilitation on many of our facilities.”
He said they have already replaced the dam in Braddock and are in the process of replacing the locks at Charleroi. The next step will be to remove the Elizabeth lock and dam — which at 107 years is the oldest.
According to Jones, the Lower Monongahela River Project was supposed to have been completed in 2004, but that date has been pushed back to 2030 due to insufficient funding.