Work wrapping up on Charleroi lock and dam

CHARLEROI, Pa. — A massive project on the Monongahela River is nearing completion after 30 years. It’s expected to cut transportation time in half.

“I see the Mon Valley getting bigger, especially around Pittsburgh, Clairton, all that,” said Timothy Sickles.

Timothy Sickles thinks removing the dam in his hometown will only benefit the region.

“To me, it helps the Mon Valley,” said Sickles.

It’s a project 30 years in the making and a $1.1 billion federal investment.

“It is a big deal,” said the Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District Commander Colonel Nicholas Melin. “Not just for the region, but the Pittsburgh District Corps of Engineers has over 800 employees and many of them have been working on this project for three decades.”

The locks and dams near Braddock, Elizabeth and Charleroi are the oldest facilities on the Monongahela River and also see the highest volume of commercial traffic, about 7,400 vessels a year. The Army Corps of Engineers started on Braddock’s facility and finished it in 2004. Now, they’re nearing completion of the facility in Charleroi.

“Starting in the 1990s, we were designing, figuring out how to recapitalize all this infrastructure,” said Melin. “In the early 2000s, we put a gated dam at Braddock in order to set conditions. We built the newest lock chamber in the entire United States at the Charleroi Lock and Dam which started passing traffic this last Friday.”

Next, it’s Elizabeth. The demolition is expected to start in the beginning of July. The Corps will be getting rid of the Elizabeth Dam completely.

“It’s not a big boom,” said Melin. “It’ll be more like a poof. Little bit of water going in the air.”

Once that’s done, traffic will move uninterrupted for 30 miles from Charleroi to Braddock.  The entire project is expected to be finished in 2027.

“It comes out to $200 million of benefits, each and every year, for the region by moving this facility and completing the Lower Mon Project,” said Melin.

The Army Corps says the pool level will rise about two feet between the dams in Elizabeth and Braddock and drop about three feet between Elizabeth and Charleroi.

“There will be no change to the high-water mark along the river and no increase in flooding as a result of the removal of this lock and dam,” said Melin.

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