Allegheny Lock and
Dam #6 on the Verge
of Catastrophic Failure
By Randy Shannon
Progressive Democrats of America
The Ohio River and its tributaries, the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River are the artery of commerce to the Port of Pittsburgh, the second largest inland port of the United States. Due to years of negligence and underfunding of our infrastructure this navigation system is on the verge of catastrophic failure. The Army Corps of Engineers press release linked here
states in the calmest language possible that we face a potential social, economic, and ecological disaster due to the critical disrepair of the locks and dams that make the rivers navigable. A dam failure would flood thousands of acres, starve water and sanitation facilities, and halt navigation. Most economic activity in the region will shut down, including the Pittsburgh International Airport and steel and cement production. The region would experience shortages of gasoline and basic foodstuff. Twelve coal fired electric power plants would face shutdown due to the halt of coal shipments on the rivers.
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported on Nov. 3rd that work rehabilitating locks and dams will come to a halt due to lack of funding. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08308/924921-85.stm
The tremendous urgency and importance of the situation in the valleys of the three rivers calls for action by Progressive Democrats and trade union activists. Our people are facing a potentional disaster on a scale that will rival the economic destruction of New Orleans by hurrican Katrina. Our local, state, and federal officials must take action. Immediate funding is the only acceptable response. Delay is unacceptable. Half measures are unacceptable.
The region needs a massive emergency infusion of $30 billion to begin immediate stopgap measures to prevent catastrophic failure of two dams. The reconstruction of all the locks and dams that are in critical condition must commence immediately. Some of these structures are over 100 years old. The reconstruction must include lengthening all of the locks to 1200 feet so that they are commensurate with the modern locks on the Mississippi and lower Ohio Rivers. This will allow consistent tow capacity and expansion of commerce.
This emergency funding is critical to our region’s survival and future prosperity. Thousands of jobs will be created manufacturing the parts and constructing the facilities. Unlike war and bank bailouts, this is an investment that will pay off in tremendous energy savings. River transportation is less than half the cost of rail and one fifth the cost of truck transportation. It will also pay off in the tax revenues generated by a revived regional economy.