Flood control reservoirs expected to reduce major issues near rivers

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The Army Corps of Engineers said its 16 flood control reservoirs are at lower winter storage levels and will capture rainfall in about one-third of the district, reducing the risk of major river flooding in the Hurricane Sandy aftermath.

However, a "high risk" of flash flooding exists on uncontrolled tributaries and streams.

Also, the corps said four of 10 dam gates at the Montgomery Locks in Beaver County are inoperable because of deterioration.

"Initial reports state that mechanical and structural components used to lift and lower four of the navigation dam's 10 gates were too severely deteriorated to reliably operate," said a statement issued today by corps spokeswoman Sheila Tunney. "Engineers will conduct a more in-depth analysis of the gates over the next few days. When storms hit the region, the Corps opens the gates on its navigation dams to allow water to pass through and then lowers the gates after high water subsides to maintain a navigable river depth. The Corps is closely monitoring river conditions and traffic near the Montgomery facility. Heavy flash flooding and a sudden rise in river levels and velocities increase the risk of a barge strike. The severely corroded dam gates could fail if a breakaway barge slams into them. The Corps is preparing plans and considering actions to implement in the event that the dam gates freeze in the up position or suffer a gate failure due to a barge strike.

"The district's repair fleet has pre-positioned maintenance bulkheads at the lock and loaded 'gravity blocks' on a barge moored at Neville Island that could be used to seal openings should a gate fail or not lower due to mechanical deterioration .A gate failure at a navigation dam does not present a risk to lives but could diminish the Corps' ability to manage the navigation depth. At worst, a strike that knocks out several gates could initiate a draining of the navigation pool, causing significant economic impact to the river commerce industry and its clients -- namely, power plants," the statement said.

weather - breaking - region

Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1868 or Twitter: @pgtraffic.


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