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The Fifth Annual Sustainability Conference this Friday will address solutions to the region’s vital waterway infrastructure needs, with presentations from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Port of Pittsburgh Commission, and the new SWPA Water Innovation Consortium, among others.
High on the agenda will be the ongoing challenge of maintaining the region’s locks and dams, which are in a constant state of disrepair for lack of revenue, yet vital to the economy, according to engineer Thomas Batroney. According to the Port of Pittsburgh Commission, the region's 17 locks and dams are in need of hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs over the next decade. Batroney said 45,000 jobs are tied to river traffic, and one barge keeps 60 tractor trailers off the road.
Some companies say they cannot afford higher user fees, according to Batroney. "The companies that are using these locks and dams pay all the fees, along with federal funding. Is that a sustainable method to pay for the costs? That is the debate right now."
Other topics will include "Asset Management" and "Water as a Resource". A recently released report “Sustainable Water Innovation Initiative for Southwestern Pennsylvania” identifies some possible solutions.
The all-day conference will be held aboard the "Empress" of the Gateway Clipper Fleet, which will cruise down the Ohio River to the Emsworth Lock and Dam.