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Upper Ohio River Navigation Improvements, Pennsylvania (21 October 2014)

Upper Ohio River Navigation Improvements Abstract:  Emsworth, Dashields, and Montgomery (EDM) Locks and Dams have provided safe and reliable navigation for over 80 years on the upper Ohio River in Pennsylvania.  EDM lock chambers have become structurally unreliable and are the smallest locks of the modernized Ohio River System.  The Feasibility Study/Environmental Impact Statement recommends a plan to maintain safe, reliable, efficient, and sustainable navigation at the head of the Ohio River through 2070. 

The EDM facilities are central to the Port of Pittsburgh, the nation’s second busiest inland port, with over 45,000 directly related jobs and 218,000 total jobs generated.  Commercial traffic is expected to grow slowly over the next 50 years.  A critical structural failure of any of the EDM lock chambers would shut down navigation for years between the Ohio River System and the Monongahela and Allegheny River Navigation Systems.  A multi-year closure would be ruinous to the navigation industry and users dependent on the river systems, and rerouting of bulk commodities to road and rail would adversely affect that infrastructure.  Significant environmental impacts to the highly populated and industrialized Southwest Pennsylvania region would result, including impacts to water quality, water supply, and recreation provided by the EDM pools. 

The study considered a wide variety of navigation improvement alternatives ranging from maintenance actions through total replacement.  Any plan that would require a multi-year closure of the existing main chamber during construction is not economically tenable.  Nine Lock Modernization Alternatives and an Advance Maintenance Alternative were addressed in detail.  The study recommends the National Economic Development (NED) Plan - “Lock Modernization Alternative 7.”  This plan entails constructing a new lock chamber equal in size to the existing main chamber (110’ x 600’) at each EDM facility.  The small auxiliary chambers and portions of the dams will be sacrificed to provide room for the new main chambers.  All of the existing main (land) chambers will be retained as auxiliaries in a Reactive Maintenance (fix-as-fails) mode.  Ecosystem restoration projects were also considered with the navigation study, but no commitment from a non-federal cost-share partner was obtained to lead to a recommended combined plan.

Lock construction will impact areas of riverbed and about six additional acres of land-based support at each facility.  Alternative construction support sites were evaluated, including Phase I and II Hazardous, Toxic, and Radiological Waste investigations.  Appropriate mitigation for aquatic and terrestrial mitigation is recommended with monitoring and adaptive management.  No change in floodplain impacts are anticipated from the project. 

The Recommended Plan for all three facilities will cost $2.32 billion based on October 2014 price levels and a 3.5 percent discount rate, and has a Benefit-to-Cost Ratio of 2.6-to-1.  The cost is fully federal, shared 50/50 between the US Treasury General Fund and the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.  Construction can begin as early as 2019 and run concurrently at all three facilities for six years under an efficient funding scenario.

REPORT DOCUMENTATION: Pertinent documentation on the project, the results of the Civil Works Review Board, and subsequent Washington-Level Review Actions, are listed below (items not linked will be provided when available):