Monday, October 24, 2016

Articles about hydroelectric plants are up

The State Journal has posted my two articles from last week about the dedication ceremony for the hydroelectric plants at the Willow Island, Cannelton and Smithland locks and dams.

Here is the main story about the dedication and the power plant itself.

And here is a sidebar about how the river flow that day was almost too little to keep the plant in production.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Belleville Locks and Dam on an autumn afternoon

My computer died Monday evening, right before I had to go upriver to cover the dedication of the hydroelectric plants at the Willow Island, Cannelton and Smithland locks and dams. I got my machine back yesterday afternoon. Now I need to catch up on a bunch of writing and other stuff.

That would include processing a bunch of pictures I took Tuesday and a few after. Here is one.

This is the Belleville Locks and Dam at Mile 203.9. Like some dams in this area, it's several miles from the nearest traffic light. Racine and Robert C. Byrd (nee Gallipolis) fit that description, too. Because of Homeland Security restrictions after 9/11, the locks are pretty much closed to public access by land. There is a spot on the upper end of the property where you can watch boats locking, though.

It was 1989, I think, that I came to the Belleville locks to ride the Ashland Inc. towboat Valvoline to Kenova WV. That was the day I met Captain David Smith and several other people for a memorable time that including passing through the Gallipolis locks.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Monday morning at Big Sandy harbor

I had a quick job to do near South Point OH this morning, so I figured I would spend a few minutes looking for boat action at the mouth of the Big Sandy. As often happens, I spent more than a few minutes. (Just ask my wife and non-river fan kids).

The first thing I saw was the M/V Kyova heading upriver past some Marathon barges tied to the Ohio shore.

Then I noticed the United States Army is still protecting the mouth of the Big Sandy River from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Have you ever seen something like this and wondered if this thing fired, what it would hit?

That was the M/V Bruce D over at Kenova WV. Here it is leaving the barges in West Virginia ...

... and here it is heading down the river, with Kentucky in the background.

I think that's the M/V Catlettsburg taking an empty barge up the Big Sandy.

And one more. It's the M/V Kentucky going upriver to, I assume, pick up some barges at Kenova and take them up the river.

Or maybe down the river. As I left, it looked like the Kentucky was facing up to the loaded barges in a way that indicated a trip upriver, but it was far too early to tell, and I had to get back to Huntington.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

M/V Dale Aritigue

The Dale Artigue passed Huntington WV upbound today with ten loaded, covered barges.

I don't know what was in them, but they were all loaded to ten feet.

Boats aren't that common up this way anymore since coal hit hard times.

Friday, October 7, 2016

M/V Cailey Moore

When I saw a boat in the distance this evening, I thought it might be a Crounse boat, as the Mary Artie Brannon was in the area. As it got closer, the pilothouse didn't look right, so I went up on a bridge to get an overhead view. As the barges came into view, I noticed they were numbered, but they had no letters. Odd.

Then I saw one barge had "CONSOL" in large letters. Could this be a Murray boat? The M/V Michael T. Somales was in the upper part of the Racine pool a day or two ago, but that's an hour and a half to two hours away by car. As the boat emerged from under the bridge, it was the M/V Cailey Moore, formerly known as Champion Coal, a boat I had seen several times when it was owned by Consol Energy.

So I got some shots. I've been playing around with black and white recently, so I figured I would try various effects with images I get this evening. Here are some results.

Sometimes black and white works better than color, and sometimes it doesn't. Did it work in these photos? You be the judge.

P.S. When the Cailey Moore was in the distance, I counted five barge lengths in its tow. I was excited that I might see a 15-barge coal tow, but when the barges emerged from under the bridge, it was clear the boat was pushing only 10 loads. But that's better than nine or six or four, so I'll take it.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A new use for an old power plant

One of the problems with retired power plants along the Ohio River is what you do with them. They occupy a lot of acreage and they usually leave a lot of environmental problems behind. Think about the ash left over from burning hundreds of thousands of tons of coal every year and all that comes with that.

The Tanners Creek plant at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, a few miles below Cincinnati, was retired last year. But it might have a productive new life. First, the official news release that came out today.

LAWRENCEBURG, Ind.  – The Ports of Indiana announced today that Indiana Michigan Power has agreed to sell its recently retired Tanners Creek coal plant in Lawrenceburg, Ind., to a brownfield redevelopment company that is working with the Ports of Indiana to evaluate the site for use as the state’s fourth port.

“Infrastructure critical to our state’s economy includes more than just roads,” said Governor Mike Pence. “Indiana’s ports and waterways have been tremendous catalysts for economic growth in this state for decades, and there is great potential here in southeast Indiana to develop a fourth port that will further energize our economy. In my State of the State address last January, I called upon the Ports of Indiana to vigorously explore the building of a fourth port in the southeastern part of our state, and I’m thankful for their continued progress as we work to make this fourth port a reality.”

St. Louis-based Commercial Development Company, Inc. (CDC) and its affiliates will work with the Ports of Indiana to determine if the facility’s approximately 700 acres of property can be developed as the state’s fourth port. CDC and its affiliates, Environmental Liability Transfer Inc. and EnviroAnalytics Group, specialize in brownfield remediation, environmental liability management, and redevelopment of formerly distressed sites throughout North America.

The Tanners Creek coal electric generation facility, which had a capacity of 995 megawatts when it was retired last year, was a workhorse for Indiana Michigan Power, generating energy from 1951 through May of 2015. Plant employees had a reputation for productivity and safety, winning the Indiana Governor’s Workplace Safety Award in 2012. Indiana Michigan Power is owned by American Electric Power (AEP), which is one of the largest electric utilities in the U.S., serving nearly 5.4 million customers in 11 states.

“Pursuing the development of a new port in southeast Indiana will help drive growth for our 21st century agriculture and advanced manufacturing sectors and attract continued business investment to our state,” said Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb. “The Ohio River has always provided strategic advantages for this region, and Indiana has a strong record of leveraging our transportation assets into economic strength.”

The Ports of Indiana has been evaluating multiple locations in southeast Indiana for potential port developments and has identified the brownfield redevelopment and clean-up of the Tanners Creek facility as a favorable site for further analysis.

“There is no question the Lawrenceburg site and its existing infrastructure would have value in a port development project,” said Rich Cooper, CEO for the Ports of Indiana. “It’s too early to say for sure what can be developed here, but it certainly warrants further investigation. Indiana’s last port was built 30 years ago, and port property in the U.S. is extremely limited; once it’s gone – it’s ‘game over’ for future port development. We will be evaluating this site’s viability for attracting new business to the Cincinnati metro area and to spur further economic development in the Tri-State region. Extensive analysis went into identifying the Tanners Creek facility and the next steps will be to determine how much land is developable and the costs associated with making the land useful.”

The Ports of Indiana is a statewide port authority managing three ports on the Ohio River and Lake Michigan that support 60,000 jobs and $7.8 billion in annual economic activity. The state’s closest port to Lawrenceburg is the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville, which opened in 1985 and is located just over 100 miles away along the Ohio River. In 2015, the Ports of Indiana handled an all-time high 12 million tons of cargo at all three ports.

There had been speculation, hints and all-but-confirmed rumors about this project for a while. From Eagle Country Online:

The idea of the so-called Fourth Port Plan was first publicly mentioned by Indiana Governor Mike Pence in his 2016 State of the State address last January. He called on Ports of Indiana, the public-private entity that oversees Indiana’s two other Ohio River ports and another on Lake Michigan, to study the viability of a port in the southeastern part of the state.
Speculation immediately turned toward the decommissioned American Electric Power Tanners Creek Plant as a possible site for the port, because it already has much of the necessary river, rail, and road infrastructure in place. Lieutenant Governor Eric Holcomb only added fuel to that fire when he spoke at an OKI Regional Council of Governments event in Lawrenceburg in early August stating “Very close to where we are today, we’re going to build our fourth port, the third along the Ohio River.”

(Read the whole thing for more details).

From what I can find, Tanners Creek had four units, which went into operation from 1951 to 1994.

At the end of its life in 2015, it was one of two coal-fired power plants in Indiana operated by AEP, with the other being Rockport down in the Evansville area. In 2014, the most recent year for which final numbers are available, the four generating units at Tanners Creek produced about 2.6 million megawatts hours of electricity. That same year, the plant took delivery of 597,506 tons of coal. About 48 percent of the coal came from mines in West Virginia. Another 38 percent came from Pennsylvania, and the remaining 14 percent came from Kentucky.

All that coal was delivered by river. At 1,500 tons per barge, that’s about 400 barges, or 27 barge tows.

The Energy Information Administration database for Tanners Creek says mines belonging to “Alpha” or “Alpha Coal” were the source for about 284,350 tons, or more than half. Losing that much business had to hurt Alpha, which has gone into bankruptcy and come out as a reorganized, smaller company.

The important fudge word in the news release, of course, is "evaluate." That means there are no promises, and any developments are likely months away as the appropriate environmental, feasibility and other studies are done. And for purposes of this entry, I'm avoiding any predictions of how many businesses or jobs could be created or affected by the development of a riverport at Lawrenceburg. I've seen too many of these predictions go wrong to dive into any for this particular site at this particular time.

So that’s what I know about Tanners Creek right now. I’ll be on the lookout for more information and share whatever good stuff I find.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

End of coal draws closer?

The CEO of Duke Energy tells Bloomberg she sees a time in the not-too-distant future when her utility does not burn coal to generate electricity but instead will rely instead on natural gas and renewables for most of its needs.

Duke gets most of its coal by rail, so this doesn't affect the river, right? Not necessarily.

I did a quick piece on this today for the web, which you can find here. If you check the second half, you'll see that Appalachian Power, an operating subsidiary of American Electric Power, says the same thing.

Look for more details on this next week.

Friday, September 23, 2016

A new boat

Today those of us in the Huntington area who were looking at the river got to see something that's rare nowadays -- a new boat.

The M/V Brenda L. Murray II of Murray American Transportation was heading up the river in the tow of the M/V Oliver C. Shearer of Campbell Transportation. C.R. Neale alerted me to the Murray's presence in my area, so I went looking for it, hoping to get a good photo to sell.

I went to Harris Riverfront Park and saw the two boats coming up the river. That was the good news. the bad news was that the Murray was on the Shearer's port side, and the sun was on the Shearer's starboard side, meaning the boat I really wanted to see would be in the other boat's shadow on a bright  sunny morning. But I crossed the bridge anyway and got this shot from Chesapeake.

Then I noticed the Shearer was coming to a stop. There was a van at the park's boat ramp, meaning a crew change was in progress. So I hurried back over to Huntington and got some more pictures, including this one.

After the two boats left, I followed them upriver for a little ways hoping to get a better shot. But the best place I found still had the boats between me and the sun.

I wanted to follow them, but around here at this time of year, solar noon does not come until after 1 p.m., and that was too far away considering other things I had to get done today if I wanted to get paid. I went looking for the boats later, all the way up to Crown City on the Ohio side, after I got some things taken care of and after the sun moved, but it was too late. The Shearer was moving to fast, and I had to get back and tend to family things.

Murray American Transportation runs most of its boats on the Mon and the upper Ohio. They don't get below the Belleville locks often. Maybe the Brenda L. Murray II will be back in this area someday. I hope so.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Who says pigeons are not particularly intelligent?

Not these guys.

Even I was seeking out shade on a day like this.

Friday, September 16, 2016

M/V Stephen T

This boat passes Huntington WV this morning, and as of tonight it's headed back down this way.