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Lower Monongahela River Project

Pittsburgh District
Published Jan. 10, 2024

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Recapitalizing the lower Monongahela River.

1
Began
1992
2
Project Area
Locks and dams 2 (Braddock), 3 (Elizabeth), and 4 (Charleroi) on the Monongahela River in southwestern Pennsylvania
3
Benefits
$200 million annually

About the Project

Construction for the Lower Monongahela River Project was authorized in 1992 to include work at three navigation facilities on the Monongahela River closest to Pittsburgh. The three facilities include Locks and Dam 2, 3 and 4 near Braddock, Elizabeth and Charleroi, Pennsylvania, respectively. They are the three oldest currently operating-navigation facilities on the Monongahela River. They create deep navigation pools for the primary purpose of commercial navigation, but the pools are also popular with recreational boaters and create locations for industrial and municipal water intakes. These locks experience the highest volume of commercial traffic on the entire Monongahela River Navigation System.

In 2004, the Pittsburgh District converted the facility near Braddock from a fixed-crest dam, which is submerged underwater, into a gated dam. The new dam raised the original upstream pool level by three feet. The fixed crest in Braddock was originally built in 1902. It was more than 100 years old when the gated dam replaced it.

By late summer 2024, the Pittsburgh District will complete construction and open a new navigation lock near Charleroi measuring 84 feet wide by 720 feet long, which can fit a nine-barge tow, which speeds up navigation through the lock. The facility will be renamed the John P. Murtha Locks and Dam in late summer of 2024.

The Pittsburgh District will begin to demolish the dam near Elizabeth in July 2024. The district will begin removing the lock walls in 2025, with the work expected to continue through 2027.

 

Navigation Notice
Lock and Dam 3 Demolition
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District operates 23 navigable locks and dams on the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers year-round regardless of weather, including in foggy conditions that restrict visibility.
Pittsburgh Foggy Landscape
The Monongahela River Locks and Dam 3 remains in operation year-round, including during foggy conditions in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, Jan. 25, 2024. The Elizabeth Dam is scheduled for removal in the summer of 2024. After the dam is removed completely, the Monongahela River will have one continuous navigation pool from Charleroi to Braddock, Pennsylvania. Between. The pool elevation will rise approximately two feet from Elizabeth to Braddock. The pool elevation will drop by approximately 3.2 feet from Elizabeth to Charleroi. The resulting river elevation between Charleroi and Braddock will level out to one continuous surface height of 723.7 feet. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District operates 23 navigable locks and dams on the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers year-round regardless of weather, including in foggy conditions that restrict visibility. Many towboat crews continue working on the rivers even in the fog, sometimes staging their barges along various parts along Pittsburgh’s waterways as they wait for the mist to lift. Regardless of weather, the Pittsburgh District’s locks and dams remain open for traffic, ready whenever navigation needs to pass commodities through their chambers. The district is responsible for keeping navigation flowing through Pittsburgh, known as the Headwaters District, to and from the rest of the nation. Transporting commodities on the waterways is four times less expensive than by trucks and 33 percent cheaper than by rail. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District photo by Michel Sauret)
Photo By: Michel Sauret
VIRIN: 240125-A-TI382-1009

NOTICE NUMBER: 206875-1

During the week of July 8, 2024, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ contractor will begin the controlled demolition and subsequent removal of the dam at Monongahela River Locks and Dam 3 (LD3). These dates are subject to change. The controlled demolition will involve the use of explosives, which will restrict navigation activities in the vicinity of L&D 3. Preparatory work will begin in advance of this date, but the actual demolition will not begin until the week of July 8, 2024.

Preparatory work will include but not be limited to:

  • Installing aids to navigation to notify river users of the restricted areas around the dam and that the use of the lock is required.
  • The Braddock pool elevation will be raised to elevation 724.7 to facilitate the dam demolition and removal.
  • Drilling in the dam to prepare for the actual explosive charges.

Following the initial demolition and breeching of the dam at Monongahela River Locks and Dam 3, L&D 3 will be closed to navigation for an estimated 3 to 12 days, depending on river conditions.

Following the 3-12 day L&D 3 closure:

To reduce the risk of injury, death, and/or significant property damage, all river traffic will be required to use the lock until the dam is completely removed and the Corps of Engineers removes the restricted areas from the river. That is expected to occur in December 2024. It is expected that there will be weekly, short-term (less than 3 hours) navigation closures of L&D 3 while additional sections of the dam undergo controlled demolition.

Additional navigation notices will be distributed as the date of the demolition draws nearer and may contain revised information. 

 


 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
Key Dates and Notices

Stone fish reefs under water!

The Pittsburgh District contracted the work to install 73 fish reefs between Monongahela River miles 21.3 and 33.5 from Victory Hills to Clairton, Pennsylvania.
New Stone Fish Reefs
A contractor uses a trackhoe with a clamshell bucket on a floating plant to install fish reefs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District by dropping R5 riprap stones into the Monongahela River near New Eagle, Pennsylvania, Nov. 17, 2023. The Pittsburgh District contracted the work to install 73 fish reefs between Monongahela River miles 21.3 and 33.5 from Victory Hills to Clairton, Pennsylvania. The stone fish reefs’ purpose is to mitigate habitat loss that will result from removing Elizabeth Locks and Dam, scheduled for the summer 2024. The project started at the end of October and is expected to be completed before the end of November. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District photo by Michel Sauret)
Photo By: Michel Sauret
VIRIN: 231116-A-TI382-1242
The Pittsburgh District installed five segments of stone fish reefs in the Monongahela River between miles 21.3 and 33.5. The reefs are not visible from above the water’s surface. All the reefs are properly marked on the navigation charts. It is the responsibility of every vessel operator to refer to the most up-to-date navigation charts before heading out. For a map identifying the location of the fish reefs, click here.


Elizabeth Dam removal!

Helicopter flight over Pittsburgh District
Helicopter flight over Pittsburgh District locks, dams, reservoirs, rivers
The photo above is an aerial view of Monongahela River Locks and Dam 3 at Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, July 21, 2023. Elizabeth Locks and Dam is one of nine navigation structures on the Monongahela River that provide navigation from Fairmont, West Virginia, to downtown Pittsburgh. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started constructing Elizabeth Locks and Dam in 1905 and finished in 1907, when the facility began operation. The lock is located at river mile 23.8. Pittsburgh District’s 26,000 square miles include portions of western Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia, eastern Ohio, western Maryland, and southwestern New York. It has more than 328 miles of navigable waterways, 23 navigation locks and dams, 16 multi-purpose flood-control reservoirs, 42 local flood-protection projects, and other projects to protect and enhance the nation’s water resources infrastructure and environment. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District photo by Michel Sauret)
Photo By: Michel Sauret
VIRIN: 230721-A-TI382-0515
 The Pittsburgh District will begin demolishing the dam at Elizabeth beginning the week of July 8, 2024. Our primary concern is to maintain safe navigation throughout the demolition phase. We anticipate minor delays to navigation at the early stages of demolition.

 

 

May 16, 2024
Public information session by the Pittsburgh District to provide construction updates on the Lower Monongahela River Project.

WHERE: Elizabeth Forward High School, 1000 Weigles Hill Road, Elizabeth, PA 15037.

NOTE: This event takes place on school property and all school policies must be followed.

WHEN: 7 – 9 p.m., Thursday, May 16.

May 28, 2024
First public information session by the contractor to update public on the Locks and Dam 3 removal (location & time TBD).
June 11, 2024
Second public information session by the contractor to update public on the Locks and Dam 3 removal (location & time TBD).
July 8, 2024
Demolition of the dam at Locks and Dam 3 begins.
December 2024
Locks and Dam 3 dam removal expected to be complete.
Summer 2025
Removal of the lock walls near Elizabeth begins.

 
Frequently Asked Questions

The Pittsburgh District anticipates breaching the dam the week of July 8, 2024, using explosives for controlled demolition. The demolition timeline depends on assuring the new lock near Charleroi is fully operational.

Roughly, between the communities of Elizabeth and Braddock, the project pool elevation will rise approximately two feet in elevation. Between the communities of Elizabeth and Charleroi, the project pool elevation will drop by approximately 3.2 feet. The gated dam near Braddock will control the water elevation from Braddock to Charleroi, resulting in a 30-mile river pool.

No. The Lower Monongahela River Project, including removing the dam in Elizabeth, does not negatively impact flooding.

If you are currently between the Braddock dam and Lock and Dam 3 or up the Youghiogheny to about Bachman Island, you will see about a two-foot increase in the pool elevation from what you typically see today. If you are between Lock and Dam 3 near Elizabeth and Lock and Dam 4 near Charleroi, you will see about a 3.2-foot decrease. For dock and permit questions contact the Regulatory Office via email: regulatory.permits@usace.army.mil 

The best, most reliable method to contact the Pittsburgh District Regulatory Office for dock and permit questions or concerns is via email: regulatory.permits@usace.army.mil 

We are continuing to lock navigation through the lock out of an abundance of caution to safeguard the public, our construction contractors and our staff. All river traffic will be required and directed to use the locks until the entire dam is removed and the locks are closed. It is anticipated that the dam will be completely removed before the end of calendar year 2024.

Of the total 73 reefs, 52 will have a 3-foot draft or more, which is the water depth over the reef. The remaining 21 reefs will have between a one and 3-foot draft. All reefs are constructed within the Slow No-Wake zone, which extends 100 feet from each shoreline, per Pennsylvania law. The fish reefs extend 50 feet from the from the shoreline. Watercraft operators are responsible for the safety of themselves, their passengers, and their personal property and must follow local waterways and boating laws. Boaters can find a map of the reef on the Pittsburgh District website and on updated Monongahela River Navigation Charts.

No. It is the boater’s responsibility to avoid the reefs and to follow Pennsylvania boating laws on the river, which designates 100 feet from each shoreline as a Slow No-Wake zone.

During the week of July 8, vessel operators should anticipate a lock closure that will last a minimum of three days, but it may last as long as 12 days following the initial dam breach.

The Pittsburgh District does not anticipate dangerous river conditions associated with removing the dam at Locks and Dam 3. As always we encourage all boaters to Know the waterways before heading out, Take a boat safety class, and always Wear a lifejacket when operating a boat.

Based on where the pool elevation has been for the past 20 years, we expect to see roughly a two-foot water surface elevation increase up to about river mile 9-10, located downstream of Buena Vista near Buchman Island. Beyond that point, the pool increase is negligible. Similar to the Monongahela River, we do not anticipate any increased flooding on the Youghiogheny River associated with the Lower Mon Project.

No. In accordance with Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, if the government adjusts the water level within navigation servitude, it is the responsibility of the facility owner to adjust their facility at their cost. The only exception to this law is a discretionary authority granted for facilities owned and operated by government agencies that have a current and continuing need. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has no authority to adjust privately owned facilities.

Yes. Send an inquiry with you Army Corps’ permit number (i.e. LRP-YEAR-XXXX) to regulatory.permits@usace.army.mil

Yes. The full demolition will last from July until December. Although there may be some additional short delays due to the demolition process, the Pittsburgh District anticipates normal locking procedures and priorities on the Monongahela River. We strongly encourage all recreational boaters in the area to pay extra attention to their surroundings.

The Pittsburgh District has designed the fish reefs to mitigate the loss of the tailwater (shallow water) habitat once the dam near Elizabeth is removed. The fish reefs will provide a diverse habitat for fish and other aquatic species. They provide a place for fish to rest, spawn and feed.

The Pittsburgh District will not restrict boaters from fishing near the stone fish reefs. The fish reefs will be marked by warning buoys. The Pittsburgh District would like to caution all boaters to follow Pennsylvania laws of following the Slow No-Wake zone within 100 feet of shorelines and abide by all laws established by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission.

No. Private property damage associated with the pool changes is not expected. The pool changes are within the navigational servitude of the United States. Any facility within navigation servitude is required to have a permit in accordance with Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, which clearly defines the requirements of facilities or lands within the aforementioned navigational servitude.