The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is ramping up efforts to teach boaters about safety at the region’s many locks and dams months after two women died while kayaking on the Ohio River.
Pittsburgh District commander Colonel John Lloyd said additional signage and buoys have been added to the city’s waterways to get boaters' attention. He said much of the focus is on identifying fixed-crest dams, of which Pittsburgh’s rivers have 11.
“A lot of time boaters don’t see them until it’s too late,” Lloyd said. “Without any knowledge of the river system, it can be dangerous.”
According to a report by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, 10 of the 11 river deaths last year happened to people in kayaks. Lloyd said that’s why the Corps and their partners like the Coast Guard and Venture Outdoors are emphasizing the importance of safety vests.
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“A lot of times people don’t understand their own abilities and they think they’re better swimmers than they really are,” said Lloyd. “The current on the rivers is very fast, and during high water events--meaning when we get a lot of rain—we not only see fast-moving water, but we see a lot of debris in the river, as well.”
Lloyd said boaters, especially those who have never been on the rivers before, need to familiarize themselves with the rivers through classes and training.
“Become an educated boater,” Lloyd said. “That’s the most important thing I can tell people.”
The Army Corps operates 23 locks and dams along the Allegheny, Monogahela and Ohio Rivers. Resources are available online, including this video: