High Water Cancels Regatta Events But Won't Slow Barge Traffic

Jul 7, 2015

Rain and sporadic storms brought Pittsburgh-area river levels to near four times their normal flow over the weekend causing officials to cancel this year's Three Rivers Regatta boat races.
Credit daveynin / Flickr

  Three Rivers Regatta revelers were relegated to the land this holiday weekend after the National Weather Service issued a recreational boating advisory warning of high, fast moving water in area rivers, pushing through about four times the normal flow. 

While the Formula One powerboat and other races were canceled, swift moving water has not impacted barge traffic on the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers.

Michael Brinza, port transportation analyst for the Port of Pittsburgh Commission, said a high water navigation notice was sent to barge companies June 28. Thus far, there's been no accidents or any noticeable effect on business traffic, he said.

“Generally (barges) are advised to stay as closely in the navigation channel as possible so as not to be caught in swift currents that might veer them off into a bridge pier,” Brinza said.

Navigation notices also remind operators about precautions when approaching a lock, he said.

“That can be particularly sensitive when the water’s high," Brinza said. "Usually it’s not just high water; high water means the current’s faster, so when approaching a lock, that can be a bit trickier when you’ve got faster current.”

Brinza said barge traffic has not been impacted because more rain fell on the city and to the north affecting the Allegheny River which “does not see much commercial traffic” compared to the Mon. Higher levels along the Allegheny will affect the Ohio downstream, he said.

According to Brinza, an estimated 26,000 barges float nearly 40 million tons of cargo along Pittsburgh’s rivers each year. He says sometimes he'll get notices of barges queuing at the locks due to high water, but as of Monday there's been no gridlock at the locks.