Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

June 4, 2014

Massie talks infrastructure at Greenup Locks and Dam

LLOYD — In an effort to help improve infrastructure at the Greenup Locks and Dam, U.S. Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Bill Johnson of Ohio visited the site Wednesday for a tour and discussion with facility administrators.

The site is currently facing the task of balancing finances between surface and water transportation and keeping the infrastructure operational.

Johnson recalled how in 2012, the gates for the lock malfunctioned, causing a major backup of freight on the Ohio River, at a steep cost to commercial companies.

“That was bad. We don't want that to happen again,” he said.

That’s why he and Massie both said they believed the recent passage of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 can bring funding into their respective districts to help avoid such calamities.

According to information on the website for the congressional Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which Massie and Johnson are both part of, WRDA is the first water bill to pass through Congress in six years.

WRDA will put a cap on expenses for long, and often costly, studies focused on infrastructure, with the goal of speeding up the research and funding allocation processes.

The Greenup Locks and Dam is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Huntington District Commander Col. Leon Parrott, Lock Master Eric Dolly, Deputy for Programs  and Project Management John Bock and Beth Cade, chief of the Planning Center of Expertise for Inland Navigation and Risk Informed Economics, each shared ideas with the congressmen for infrastructure improvements.

Cade spoke about plans for the M-70 Inland Marine Highway, a vision of the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), which would require USACE cooperation in order to reach fruition.

This marine highway could help eliminate traffic on the roads by moving freight transportation to the Ohio River, especially in the Huntington District, where the addition of a corridor is being considered.

Also being considered is upgrading the Jesse Stuart Bridge, which is located on the Ohio River between Greenup County and Scioto County, Ohio, just five miles downstream from the city of Greenup.

The bridge was first opened for traffic in 1987 and is now in need of major rehabilitation that would cost several hundred thousand dollars. The Huntington District is looking to divest ownership of the bridge.

“My district is a lot like Bill's district, in that we both have 'water districts,'” Massie said. “There are three locks and dams, so it's important to us, not just for this lock and dam in Greenup, but for the others downstream.”

“I've got three upstream, but it even goes beyond that,” Johnson said. “If there's a problem way outside our district, up river, then we have a problem down here.”

The Greenup Locks and Dam has two parallel locks, an auxiliary lock, miter service gates and vertical-life emergency gates, operational since November 1959.

Annual cost for operating the locks and dam is $2 million for labor and $300,000 for utilities, contracts and other purchases.

Johnson and Massie said WRDA is a two-year funding bill, but faced minimal objection in both the House and Senate. They both hope to pass a similar five-year WRDA bill after the current one expires.

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