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YOUGHIOGHENY RIVER, PA,
L E T T E R
THE SECRETARY OF WAR,
WITH A LETTER FROM THE CHIEF OF ENGINEERS, REPORT ON PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION OF YOUGHIOGHENY RIVER, PA., FROM ITS MOUTH TO WEST NEWTON, INCLUDING A REPORT ON EXISTING AND PROSPECTIVE WATER TERMINALS.
May 28, 1919-:-Referred to the Committee on Rivers and Harbors and ordered to
be printed, with illustration.
Washington, May 27, 1919. The SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith, a letter from the Chief of Engineers, United States Army, of 11th ultimo, together with report of Lieut. Col. H. W. Stickle, United States Army, retired dated June 27, 1918, with map, on a preliminary examination of Youghiogheny River, Pa., authorized by the river and harbor act approved August 8, 1917. Very respectfully,
NEWTON D. BAKER,
Secretary of War.
Washington, April 11, 1919.
1. There is submitted herewith for transmission to Congress report dated June 27, 1918, with map, by Lieut. Col. H. W. Stickle, United States Army, retired, on preliminary examination authorized by the river and harbor act approved August 8, 1917, of Youghiogheny River, Pa., "from its mouth to West Newton, including a report on existing and prospective water terminals.”
2. The Youghiogheny River is the principal tributary of the Monongahela, which it enters at the city of McKeesport, Pa. The river and harbor act of June 25, 1910, appropriated $100,000 for commencing the improvement of the river between the mouth and West Newton by the construction of three locks and dams, at an estimated cost of $1,050,000, but no actual work was done, and on April 1, 1915, the balance of funds on hand was transferred to the improvement of the Ohio River under authority of the act of March 4, 1915. The same act ordered a preliminary examination of the river from the mouth to West Newton, and in the report thereon (printed in H, Doc. No. 1284, 64th Cong., 1st sess.) legislation is recommended authorizing the abandonment of the project. No action on this recommendation has been taken by Congress. The proposed location of Lock and Dam No. 1 is about 1} miles above the mouth, and below this point the river is rendered navigable for coal barges by back water from pool No. 2 in the Monongahela River. Above the site of this proposed dam are a number of industries which the district engineer states would derive advantage from the improvement, and some development of coal measures adjacent to the river might be expected, but the principal argument advanced in favor of the work is the necessity for relief from the railroad congestion now affecting the Pittsburgh gateway. It is represented that a terminal for package freight could be constructed at Gratztown, above the site of proposed Dam No. 3, where transfer between rail and water could be made. The district engineer believes that there is no place where the utilization of waterways can be more advantageously employed for the relief of railroad congestion than on the Nonongahela-Ohio River system, of which the Youghiogheny River can be made an important feeder. He reaches the conclusion that the construction of the lowermost of the proposed locks and dams is justified at this time in the interest of the development of river traffic on the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers. For reasons stated, the division engineer regards the locality as not worthy of improvement under existing conditions.
3. This report has been referred, as required by law, to the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors, and attention is invited to its report herewith, dated January 7, 1919. The board finds that the prospects for coal production along the river are not sufficient to justify the cost of the improvement whether by one lock and dam or by three. One lock would make available for factory sites only about 255 acres, and would not reach the suggested location for å public terminal at Gratztown. In view of all the circumstances, the board concurs in the opinion of the division engineer that at this time it is not advisable for the United States to undertake the improvement of this river.
4. After due consideration of the above-mentioned reports, I concur in the views of the division engineer and the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors, and therefore report that the improvement by the United States of the Youghiogheny River, Pa., from its mouth to West Newton, is not deemed advisable at the present time. The serious congestion of rail transportation through the Pittsburgh gateway and the desirability of securing relief through the coordinate use of rail and water lines are recognized by the Chief of Engineers, but the subject is of such importance that it should have more mature study by all the transportation interests concerned and a plan developed that will fully meet the requirements of the entire situation. The present investigation is confined to the Youghiogheny River, and its scope is therefore too limited to permit a broad consideration of the general question of a rail and water terminal to serve the entire Monongahela-Ohio River system. The improvement of the Youghiogheny River, solely for the benefit of local industries and for the development of the coal deposits adjacent to its banks, is not justified at the present time, and the recommendation heretofore made for the abandonment of the existing project is renewed.
W. M. BLACK,
REPORT OF THE BOARD OF ENGINEERS FOR RIVERS AND HARBORS.
BOARD OF ENGINEERS FOR RIVERS AND HARBORS,
January 7, 1919. To the CHIEF OF ENGINEERS, UNITED STATES ARMY:
1. The following is in review of the district engineer's report authorized by the river and harbor act of August 8, 1917, on preliminary examination of Youghiogheny River, Pa., from its mouth to West Newton, including a report on existing and prospective water terminals.
2. The Youghiogheny River is the principal tributary of the Monongahela River which it enters at McKeesport, 15.6 miles above its mouth. The distance from the mouth of the Youghiogheny to West Newton is 18.8 miles. Dam No. 2 on the Monongahela River pools about 4.7 miles up the Youghiogheny. The principal towns on the reach under consideration are West Newton and McKeesport, which in 1916 had a reported population of 3,100 and 46,500, respectively. A railroad follows closely along each bank of the river. Except for a short distance in the pool at the mouth, the river is not navigable.
3. The improvement of the Youghiogheny River by the construction of 3 locks and dams, at an estimated cost of $1,050,000, was authorized by the river and harbor act of June 25, 1910. No work of construction, however, has been done, and in a report submitted under authority of the river and harbor act of March 4, 1915, reviewing physical and commercial conditions, the opinion was expressed by the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors and by the Chief of Engineers that the stream was not worthy of improvement by the United States, and it was recommended that the existing project be abandoned.
4. The existing water terminal facilities apparently consist of hoists for unloading coal and other materials at six establishments on the pool near the mouth of the river. During 1916, these hoists handled 189,750 tons. It is expected that this amount will be increased in the future owing to the recent enlargement of one of the plants. Local interests state that if Dam No. 1 were built, other industries would receive coal and would ship some of their products by water. The improvement of the river is apparently desired to afford existing industrial plants located along its banks an opportunity to receive their coal by water, to make available additional factory sites, and to establish a point of exchange of freight between rail and water, it being claimed that this locality is the only one available for this purpose in the entire Pittsburgh district.
5. The district engineer calls attention to the great volume of business done by the railroads in the vicinity of Pittsburgh, the consequent congestion, and the lack of an adequate site for a rail to river terminal. He regards it as inevitable that much of the through traffic as well as a considerable portion of that originating in the Pittsburgh district must eventually be diverted to river carriage and that suitable transfer facilities must be provided. He believes that the best place for such a terminal is on the banks of the Youghiogheny River and that the locality is worthy of improvement by the construction of the lowermost of the proposed locks and dams. For reasons given, the division engineer is not in accord with this view, and he recommends that the locality be regarded as not worthy of improvement under existing conditions.
6. The information presented did not convince the board of the advisability of the improvement and interested parties were so informed and given an opportunity of presenting their views. This led to a request for a hearing which was given September 24, and attended by Hon. E. E. Robbins, M. C., and a delegation of citizens from the locality.
7. It was stated at the hearing that the improvement would open up new coal fields accessible to the river. The Pittsburgh coal vein along the Youghiogheny River between the mouth and West Newton is practically exhausted. The Sewickley vein, which overlies the Pittsburgh vein, while largely undeveloped, is of inferior quality and reports do not encourage the belief that a large tonnage of this coal will become available for shipment in the near future. The Freeport coal measure underlying the exhausted Pittsburgh vein is located at depths of 150 to 300 feet below the river surface, and in this vicinity is thought to have a thickness generally of not more than about 4 feet, which would make it expensive to work and probably retard its development, at least to any large extent, in the immediate future. In view of these conditions it is believed there will not be a sufficient production of coal along the Youghiogheny River to justify the cost of improvement whether by one lock and dam or by three.