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Upper Monongahela River locks open for recreational use this weekend

By JOHN MARK SHAVER

The Fairmont News

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Those interested in boating and fishing on the Monongahela River this weekend can take advantage of the opening of the Morgantown, Hildebrand and Opekiska locks.

Despite being moved to a new waterway, the locks will be open this weekend for the West Virginia Bass Federation’s Buddy Trail Invitational Championship in Morgantown. Boaters are encouraged to use the locks at Palatine Park heading up the Mon River to Morgantown or to points north towards Pittsburgh.

Upper Monongahela River Association President Barry Pallay said the locks are great for travel and recreation and have historically been a huge part of the state’s economy.

“The locks and dams are critical infrastructure for West Virginia,” Pallay said. “We’re trying to regrow commerce and recreation on the Upper Mon River, so that’s the reason we’re opening the locks — To encourage people to use the locks and the Upper Mon River.”

In 2012, due to staffing problems, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed the Hildebrand and Opekiska locks to recreational traffic. That changed in June 2015 when the Upper Monongahela River Association, with support of the Marion and Monongalia County commissions, both county Convention and Visitors Bureaus and the cities of Morgantown, Fairmont, Westover, Granville, helped cover the cost to open the locks periodically during the summer months.

The Hildebrand pool is 7 miles long and runs between Hildebrand and Opekiska. And the Opekiska pool, between Opekiska and Fairmont, is 13 miles long. The Morgantown Lock and Dam is one of nine navigation structures which provide for year-round navigation on the Monongahela River between Pittsburgh and Fairmont.

Fairmont and the region first benefited from the newly opened locks two years ago at the 2015 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Mid-Atlantic Divisional at Palatine Park.

The locks were open for the Three Rivers Festival in May and the West Virginia BASS Nation Buddy Trail Championship bass fishing tournament earlier this month.

The Pittsburgh District of the Army Corps of Engineers will keep the three Upper Mon locks open this weekend during the following hours:
  • Morgantown lock is open every weekend during the summer from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • The Hildebrand and Opekiska locks will be open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday.

Pallay encouraged all to come enjoy the river this weekend, and to show the Army Corps just how much the Monongahela River and the locks mean to the people of West Virginia.

“Use the locks and show the Corps that they’re critical to West Virginia,” Pallay said. “We know that in the past they were critical for our economic well-being, and we anticipate that as we regrow commerce and recreation, it will continue to be that way.”

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