Friday, July 13, 2001

Ohio River 'sewer,' Corps told

By Kimberly Hefling
The Associated Press

        EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Calling the Ohio River a “sewer,” a local environmentalist challenged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to return the river to its pre-20th century state instead of focusing on the river's shipping needs.

        “Wouldn't it be nice if we could encourage our kids to swim in the river again?” John Blair, the president of Valley Watch, said during a Thursday public hearing.

        The hearing in Evansville was the second of six scheduled — one will be Aug. 6 in Covington — by the Corps to receive comment on a $45 million study to develop a 60-year navigation plan for the 981 miles of the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill.

        The plan — called the Ohio River Mainstream Study — is necessary because the 19 locks and dams on the Ohio River are aging, said Veronica Rife, the project manager with the Corps.

        A majority of the locks are 40-50 years old, Ms. Rife said. Three of the locks downstream from Pittsburgh are about 80 years old.

        The study, which is projected to be complete in 2003, will look at which locks should be replaced, left alone or renovated.

        Transportation on the Ohio River is important to the economy. In 1997, commodities worth $31 billion were shipped on the river, according to the Corps. Coal makes up 55 percent of the commodities shipped on the river.

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