Most locks and dams in West Virginia are unaffected by government shutdown, save those on the Upper Monongahela River, which won't operate this weekend
Lyle Adkins
Most locks and dams in West Virginia are unaffected by government shutdown, save those on the Upper Monongahela River, which won't operate this weekend

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The impact of the partial federal government’s shutdown is starting to impact the lives of outdoorsmen and women. One of the first casualties will be anglers fishing in this weekend’s West Virginia Bass Federation Nation qualifying event on the Monongahela River in Morgantown.

The river will be staged out of the Prickett’s Fort ramp in Marion County, but anglers competing will not be able to lock down river and will be limited to the Opekiska pool.

“We’re not going to be able to accommodate special events right now due to the government shutdown,” said Carol Davis, Spokesperson for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh Division. “All commercial navigation will operation, but we can’t handle any special events.”

The Corps sparsely runs the Opekiska and Hildebrande Locks and Dams. Typically they only operate on weekends during the boating season. Bass tournament organizers have had success in getting special use permits for events on the Upper Monongahela River, but it won’t be the case this weekend.

“What’s going to happen this weekend is still up in the air,” said Federation Nation Conservation Director Jarrod Harmon. “Our board is considering our options. It’s just a really late date to be given this news since so many guys have made hotel reservations and already practiced on this body of water.”

Although the Corps is a branch of the Army and funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, it has not been immune to this weeks furloughs of non-essential federal employees.

“Certain offices are different, but for the most part we are all funded by the Department of Defense,” said Chuck Minskier, Spokesman for the Corps’ Huntington District. “About half of our staff has been sent home.”

The Huntington District has 800 employees, 450 have been furloughed, but essential operations continue. Locking operations on the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers are unaffected for the time being. Minsker added the drawdowns on Summersville Lake for the Gauley Rafting season will also be unaffected.

“The plans are to continue the whitewater releases as normal at Summersville Dam,” Minsker said. “We’ve got some time sensitive maintenance work at the dam scheduled so those releases will continue as planned.”

Should anybody on the river have a problem though, help may be harder to find.  The National Park Service Staff in the New River Gorge National River is down to seven law enforcement personnel.

“We’ll have seven folks still available to respond to emergencies,” said Chief River Ranger Jeff West. “It’s not quite as robust as it normally is, but we’ll still have boats on the water as well as help from the shore.”

However, throughout the park property, lands and recreation areas are closed.  Campers were immediately forced out and other shutdown accommodations were made.

“The river access are still open which makes it tough, but we’ll do the best we can,” West said. “Campgrounds are closed, facilities are closed, some of our major trail systems are closed.  It’s kind of a hit or miss thing.”

West said although technically closed and technically off limits to the public, rangers will be very discretionary in how they interact with users in the park.

“Going down and fishing on the river is okay,” he said. “Even if I wanted to close an area this big and had my full staff, there’s no way I could effectively do it and besides, that’s not the point of things.”

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Comments

  • wvtd

    why put up concrete barriers at the Winfield locs? this is stupid, we need to vote out all incumbents next round and take our nation back.

  • blugldmn

    In other words it's all political...

    Big surprize!

  • Brenda Criss

    The campground is still full at Summersville. We have never needed the assistance of the Army Corp to launch our boats in the past and we fish until the lake freezes. There is nobody around after Labor Day.

  • Longbeards

    I agree with Tim and Ken,,,this is a part of the Democrat plan to make things look worse then they are,,and to focus the blame on the Republican Party,,,,,,BUT it shows how much could be cut from the government and never be missed!!

    VOTE THEM OUT!

  • Ken

    The point is that this weekend a large tournament with 60 or 80 boats was to compete for 2 days on summersville lake with a pre tournament meeting on Friday night .that amounts to 120 to 160 fishermen needing motel rooms for 2 nights,local restaurants would have been busy not counting the fact that each boat generally holds 40 to 50 gallons of gas.needless to say this is a large loss to local business when the only thing the Corp of Engineers has to provide is a unlocked gate. and to correct spellcheckers comment the lake does not close on Labor Day . Many local anglers use the lake until freeze up.The Army Corp of Engineers under the direction of C.J.Hamilton has chosen to allow the rafting community to launch their rafts below the dam on Corp. property and also allow them to use the Battle Run Campground but discriminate against local fishermen and thus negatively impacting local Fishermen and residents.

    • Rick H

      Good point Ken, the corps has never provided any service to launch our boats at these ramps. I pay a 30 dollar day use fee each year to launch at Summersville and Sutton and last Thursday the gates were locked at Summersville....I wonder if I get a 3 dollar refund next year...Obama's propaganda to blame the republicans....hard working people don't have a chance, we have to pay for all the free stuff he gives out.....

    • GregG

      Great post Ken.

  • blugldmn

    The bass boats should have been paying to use the locks all along..

    Why should taxpayers subsidize bass fishing tournaments

    • L Atkins

      As a bass angler that uses the locks for those tournaments I pay everyday when I go to work. Just like drivers pay to use the pavement on the road. I also pay when I purchase all of my fishing related items.
      One last thing the photo journalist done a great job of capturing the lock experience ....peace out

  • blugldmn

    I don't give a darn if people can't fish, that's no good reason to continue to put debt on your grandchildren.

    It was announced weeks ago that summersville lake was going to be closed to boats.

    Just more propaganda from the government.

  • Spell Checker

    Summersville always closes after Labor Day. What is your point?

  • Tim Naylor

    The closing of Summersville lake is some what asinine. The only services the USACOE provides right now is to empty the trash cans. The bathrooms are closed and locked, the marina is closed and their patrol boat is out of the water. Lol. Just saying.