Tuesday, August 07, 2001

Plan key as locks, dams age on river

Army Corps of Engineers seeks public's ideas for improvements

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took public input Monday night on its study for Ohio River improvements through 2060, with much of the talk focusing on managing commercial traffic.

        The time frame is daunting, organizers said. But the need for short-term attention is obvious. The river's aging locks and dams are overburdened by rising commercial traffic, 55 percent of which is coal transportation.

        The opinion-gathering, at the Kenton County Public Library, is part of the corps' $45.3 million river improvement study. Each state along the Ohio River, which stretches 891 miles from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill., gets one meeting.

        “I came (to the meeting) because I'm interested in the economics,” said James Chasteen, 47, a Latonia fisherman.

        Mr. Chasteen said the fragile river ecosystem is a major concern of his, a sentiment shared by Tom Swor, an environmental team leader for the corps.

        Mr. Swor encouraged citizens who couldn't attend to write or e-mail their input.

        “(Commercial traffic) matters to the public's pocketbooks because it affects the price of virtually everything that's shipped,” he said.

        The river has 19 lock systems, 12 of which were among the nation's worst 36 in 1998 for average freight delays. Mr. Swor said expanding them or adding more is a consideration.

        The key questions for the corps: what are the most effective solutions, and how will they be funded.

        To give your input on Ohio River systems improvements, write by Aug. 31 to project manager Veronica Rife, Ohio River Main Stem Systems Study, P.O. Box 59, Louisville, KY 40201. Or visit Web site www.lrl.usace. army.mil/ormss/.


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