Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, everyone ...

I'm ready to pack up 2009 and put it on the shelf. Let's go, 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

mv. Hoosier State

I was out this morning getting the state inspection sticker on my car renewed when my youngest son, Adam, called to report that he saw the new AEP towboat the mv. Hoosier State on the vessel locations site. He's been looking for that thing for more than a month.

If it gets up this far, we'll have to go chase it, I guess. We also have to get a good photo of the new Marathon Petroleum towboat the Detroit. This is not exactly the best time of year for such things, but we'll try.

Racine Locks and Dam

Monday was not a good day for getting pictures along the Ohio River, at least not from a comfort standpoint. The air temperature was in the mid- to upper 20s, and a stiff wind was blowing. Still, Adam and I had to go upriver, so we took a side trip up to the Ohio side of the Racine Locks and Dam.

The river was running about 12 feet above normal pool, and the fishing area was under water, so there wasn't as much good to photograph as we would have liked. But we were happy to make the trip anyway.

The hydroelectric plant on the left side of the photo was one of the first two on the Ohio to use horizontal turbines to generate power. The plant at the Greenup Locks and Dam was the other, and they were built at about the same time. Racine was built on site, while Greenup was built in two sections in France and brought to the U.S. for installation.

I did a newspaper story on the Racine plant when it was under construction. AEP, which built the plant, picked up the story and ran it as an ad in the Wall Street Journal. I guess that's the closest I'll come to being published in that newspaper.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Another look at hydropower

Here's another look at hydroelectric power development in North America that mentions what's happening on the Ohio River.

Unanswered questions from a five-minute visit

Sometimes in the rush to get from here to there and back again you discover something that makes you want to stop and sit a spell. You want to learn more about what you've found, but you can't.

Such as the case when I was in Racine, Ohio, this week. It's a small incorporated village a few miles up the river from Pomeroy. The state road makes a sharp bend to the left, but I saw something off to the right that needed investigating. Namely, I was looking for a spot directly across the Ohio River from AEP's Philip Sporn power plant. I didn't find that spot, at least the one I remembered with an unobstructed view of the plant, which is built on the river's edge. But in the process of looking for that, I found this.

And more.

The old Cross Grocery is out of business, at least in this building. Racine, like other towns, is a mix of convenience stores and chain stores geared to small towns (think Dollar General). The fact that this building looks so good on the outside intrigued me. And that "Established 1860" didn't hurt either. It's close enough to the river that it must have been visible from the water.

As I looked around in my five minutes in Racine, I saw other old buildings of a like sort. It made me wonder what Racine was like a few generations ago. The town must have faced the river and had some sort of river-based commerce. If only there were a local historian or storyteller who could tell what the town was like a century ago when my grandparents' boats traveled up and down the Ohio.

It will be a while before I can get back to Racine. Now I have many more reasons to.
P.S. This is like an old, long-closed general store I found in Golconda, Illinois, back in 1986. That old store had a couple of antique gas pumps out front. I would have liked to have found the people who ran it, too. But that opportunity is -- more than likely -- long gone.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Shootist

I had to go upriver today, so I took Adam and his late grandfather's film camera, which Adam has adopted as his own. We found ourselves in the parking lot of the McDonald's in Pomeroy, Ohio, as the Marge McFarlin rounded a sharp bend and went under the Bridge of Honor between Pomeroy OH and the town of Mason WV. Adam's grandmother said grandpa would have been proud. 

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Hydro at RCB

It's hard to believe that one of my favorite spots along the Ohio River -- the Ohio side of the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam (nee Gallipolis Locks and Dam) might be the site of a new hydroelectric plant in a few years. Details here.

It wasn't that long ago that the federal government spent a lot of money improving the fishing area there, as can be seen in the photo above. The Corps of Engineers even built a road down to the bottom of the dam to provide handicap access to the fishing area.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Picking up the pieces in Cincinnati

I haven't been to Cincinnati since 2003. I've never attended a Bengals game, and I attended one Reds game -- late August 1973. I saw Ted Simmons hit a home run, witnessed Lou Brock stealing a base off Johnny Bench and Fred Norman, and I saw Pedro Borbon get a base hit. That last one was probably the most amazing. The only thing that could have been better would have been if I could see Jack Billingham get a hit.

Anyway, cities up and down the Ohio River keep coming up with ideas for improving or "revitalizing" their riverfronts. Some are good. Some are nonsensical; some people in Huntington WV keep talking about replacing part of their floodwall with a removable structure so people can see the Ohio River. The only problems are that there are almost no buildings in that area with windows facing the river (at least, buildings that aren't tall enough to offer a view over the floodwall anyway) , that there is a significant difference in elevation between the city and the river at that spot such that few people would see the river anyway and that no one wants to spend the millions of dollars required for such a project.

And some of these riverfront projects have financial time bombs built into them. What's going on in Cincinnati is a case in point. The New York Times has an article on this subject that's worth reading.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Xmas at O-Kan harbor

Somebody has to work on Christmas day and most major holidays. Today, I found some of them on the Ohio River just below the mouth of the Kanawha River at Point Pleasant WV. Specifically, the crew of the mv. Oliver C. Shearer was moving some barges around the Campbell Transportation barge mooring area. Or fleeting area, or parking area, or whatever the jargon requires me to call it to show I can talk the insider's language.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fun on the roots

Sequence of events:

Run errands for the wife.

Go to the boat ramp at the mouth of the Guyandotte River to see if there's anything worth getting the camera out for. Look up and down the Ohio River. Nothing there.

Head to Harris Riverfront Park, a few mile down the river and around the bend. Nothing downriver. Up a mile or see, see a boat heading up toward the Guyandotte ramp.

Get to Guyandotte boat ramp in time to get a few decent shots. Too bad the river has been up lately. It turned the banks to soft mud, the kid that adds a pound to each shoe for every step you take.

Walk along some thin, exposed tree roots a foot or so above the mud, trying to balance yourself while holding the camera steady. Get off a few decent shots.

Come home and upload them. Then do the household chores you were supposed to be doing instead of taking more pictures along the river.

You know, that balancing act on the roots was a whole lot easier 30 years ago, before the cashiers at Taco Bell started giving me the senior citizen discount without bothering to ask my age.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ingram VP speaks

Ingram Barge Co. is one of the largest movers of cargo on the Ohio River, if not the largest. In a recent opinion piece in The Tennessean of Nashville, Dan Mecklenberg, senior vice president of Ingram Barge, discussed the importance of the inland waterways system for moving bulk cargo. Although it is written from a Tennessee perspective, it has some points that apply to all cargo-carrying rivers. You can read the piece here.

Three more winter pics

A few more pics to document the snow we had here in Huntington WV over the weekend. It wasn't much as snowstorms go. It was enough to be pretty and to cause a few inconveniences. Lucky for us, the heavier amounts that caused power outages hit to the south and the east of us.

First, a Canada goose looks around the Guyandotte boat ramp.

The mv. Ned Merrick heads downriver.

And the East End bridge, which is white and gray in most light, fades into the background of snow and an overall gray day.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lonesome by the river

Six months ago, a late Sunday afternoon would see Harris Riverfront Park full of people enjoying the sun, the breeze and the sights of the Ohio River. Today, a day after the first significant snowfall of the season, the park was nearly deserted. Down by the river, mud from last week's high water covered everything. On the upper level, there wasn't a lot to look at on the overcast afternoon. But summer is only six months away.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A kid gets ahead of his father

This morning, when I got 10-year-old Adam up for school, I told him I saw a picture last night on Flickr of a Crounse Corp. boat that I'd never seen. I was about to tell him the name when he asked, "Linda Little?" I asked Adam how he knew about a boat neither of us had seen around here, and he said he saw it on Dick's Towboat Gallery. I knew the kid spent a lot of time on that site, but I didn't know he spent that much time there.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A new muscle boat and an old muscle car

So yesterday when my 10-year-old got home from school at 3 p.m., I told him the new towboat AEP Leader had probably already passed Huntington upbound. He was disappointed. It was the only new AEP boat that he hasn't seen yet. Fool that I am, I put him in the car and we drove up the river looking for it. I figured that with the Ohio River running as high as it has been, the current was probably slowing the boat down from its usual speed of about 5 mph upbound.

Just as I was about to turn the car around after a fruitless 20-mile search, we saw it. The boat was interesting in itself, but  more interesting was watching my son use his late grandfather's film SLR camera to get some shots. I wish I had gotten a photo of him getting a photo, but with the river up, shooting space was limited in the spot where we had to shoot.

Anyway, here's the AEP Leader.

On the way home, we saw this car for sale. I have no practical use for a 60s-era Camaro, especially with two teenagers in the house. I don't have the money to buy, maintain and insure a car like this. But I want one.

Know what I mean?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Silver Memorial Bridge turns 40

Today is the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Silver Memorial Bridge between Gallipolis, Ohio, and Henderson, W.Va. Henderson is a small community across the Kanawha River from Point Pleasant, W.Va.

The Silver Memorial Bridge opened two years to the day after the Silver Bridge collapsed into the Ohio River, killing 46 people. A lot has been written about the Silver Bridge, including by me. This time, however, let’s talk about the replacement bridge.

As far as I know, there was not much talk in 1967 about whether the old bridge needed to be replaced. Sure, it was narrow and inadequate, but the late 1960s was not a time when people thought the old bridges over the Ohio needed to be replaced ASAP. Most of the older bridges were considered inadequate, but it was not considered urgent. Of course, that changed with the Silver Bridge collapse.

After the collapse, the need for a new bridge was obvious. The bridge carried U.S. 35 over the Ohio River, and that was a major truck route between Columbus, Ohio, and Charleston, W.Va. Restauranteur Bob Evans made his fortune on that fact. His first restaurant was a place in Gallipolis where truck drivers could eat and drop their trailers for other drivers to take onto the narrower, twistier roads of West Virginia.

To speed up the replacement process, the design of an existing bridge down South -- Louisiana, I think -- was adapted. The new bridge was to be four lanes, making it the first bridge of that width in this part of the Ohio River. Other than bridges built specifically for the interstate highway system, the new bridge may have been the first four-lane highway bridge between Wheeling and Cincinnati. If there was another, I can’t think of it.

Work moved quickly, enabling the new bridge to open on the second anniversary of the Silver Bridge’s demise.

In 1977, the state of West Virginia closed the Silver Memorial Bridge for a few months so it could repair some cracks in the structural steel. Other than that, the bridge has had practically no serious problems.

The Silver Bridge gets a lot of attention, as it should. But the Silver Memorial Bridge has something worth noting, too: It has been in service about six months longer than the Silver Bridge was, and there is no sentiment that it has outlived its usefulness. Thousands of drivers use it each day with little thought as to its safety or its adequacy. The new generation of bridges, which replaced those built in the 1920s, has stayed adequate far longer than its predecessor.

People driving across the new bridge get two good views of the Ohio and Kanawha rivers. Downstream, you see repair docks and fleeting areas on both sides of the Ohio. Looking upriver, you see the m mouth of the Kanawha River, the historic park at the Kanawha's mouth, the Point Pleasant riverfront park and a 100-year-old railroad bridge over the Ohio. If only the Silver Memorial Bridge had a sidewalk, photographers would be very happy. They would probably grumble over which side it would be on instead of the other. It's just the way we are.

One more thing: As a tribute to what happened 42 years ago, the Silver Memorial Bridge retains its silver color. All other new steel bridges built and maintained by West Virginia are painted green, but the Silver Memorial Bridge is allowed to keep its original paint scheme.

One more one more thing: There is another bridge of this design over the Ohio. Back in 1986, the first time I drove up the river past Marietta, Ohio, I was surprised to see a bridge at St. Marys, W.Va., that appeared to be a twin of the Silver Memorial Bridge. And it was. The old bridge at St. Marys was of the same design as the Silver Bridge. It was replaced with a bridge of the same design as the Silver Memorial Bridge, with one exception. The St. Marys bridge has a sidewalk.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The litter never ends

The Ohio River was up a few feet this week. Late this afternoon, Adam and I visited a couple of boat launch ramps to see what was there. As expected, the river left some debris where it had been up. As usual, the debris was a mix of natural material and man-made litter.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cost of carbon capture

I insist that this blog be politics-free, so I offer this next comment as a news item, not as part of my personal opinions.

The Ohio River is lined with several dozen coal-fired power plants. The region gets almost all of its electricity from coal. AEP, which owns the Mountaineer plant at New Haven, W.Va., has installed a carbon storage and capture system to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide coming out of its stack or stacks.

The head of AEP tells the Wall Street Journal that carbon capture can reduce carbon dioxide emissions to near zero. The impact on consumers will be a doubling of their electric bills, minus whatever subsidies the company receives. And the company will be aggressive in going after those subsidies.

The story is here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

One famous barn

A couple of months ago, I was in the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in downtown Huntington WV covering the Create West Virginia conference. There were several banners attached to the bleachers, including this one.

As I stared at the photo, I wondered if this particular barn is the most photographed barn in West Virginia. It's along West Virginia Route 2 along the Ohio River a few miles north of the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam, nee Gallipolis Locks and Dam. With the CSX track in the foreground and lush, level land in the background, it's an easy shot, assuming you can find a place to park your car.

I've seen pictures of this barn on Flickr, and I've seen it on at least one Web site devoted to cataloging locations of Mail Pouch barns. And when there's Art in the Park in Huntington, there's often a photographer trying to sell a picture of  this barn.

Here are three pics I've taken of the same barn in the past couple of years.

First, in the rain on July 4, 2008.

A nice fall day later that year.

And in the morning fog this past September.

Playing with black and white

This is the time of year I call "retreat from the river." The weather turns cold and wet, and the sandy river banks turn to slippery mud. I just don't get down to the river as much this time of year as I don in spring and summer. That describes the weather here in the Huntington WV area this week, so I dug into my summer archives and found a few pictures to play with. I converted them all from color to black-and-white, and then, in some cases, played with the controls to make a semi-artsy image.

First, the mv. AEP Mariner as it came downriver toward Huntington this summer.

Next. the mv. Speedway of Marathon Petroleum. As I worked on this image -- it took some time, as I did a lot of stuff that left me far less than satisifed -- I came up with this one, which I like much better than the original color image.

This is the U.S. Grant Bridge at Portsmouth OH, seen from a boat ramp a little ways upstream. I like how the ridge behind the bridge is at about the same level as the bridge roadway. The next time I try this shot, I'll see if I can get them lined up better.

And here's one of the Huntington East End bridge. I've done several images in black and white with pleasing results, but this one leaves me cold. It just didn't work. Oh well.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

First snow of winter

We had our first snow of the winter today. It wasn't much, but it was enough to make a snowman and to get a few pictures of towboats on a white background -- when one could be found, that is.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Two evening shots at Huntington

I was standing on the Ohio River bank at the mouth of the Guyandotte River the other night and shot a few pics. Here are a couple. Enjoy them if you wish.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Where did summer go?

It's chilly and rainy here today. I wanted to find a nice summer Ohio River photo that had nothing to do with boats or bridges or dams. Instead, my eye fixed on this one from New Year's Day up at Point Pleasant WV, when a flock of Canada geese flew toward the Silver Memorial Bridge.

Spring is only three months away. Green hills, four. As Merle Haggard used to sing, if we can make it through December...


I left this comment on a picture that towboatin46 posted on Flickr, but I'll put it up here, too.

A guy could make a fortune harvesting and selling the spare tires floating on the river or littering its banks, if only they were worth something.