Wednesday, March 31, 2010

C8 in Cincinnati

From a blog entry by Ken Ward Jr., environmental reporter for the Charleston (WV) Gazette:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials are pushing DuPont Co. to conduct more widespread C8 water testing, based at least in part on data that indicates “elevated levels” of the chemical in the Ohio River as far away from DuPont’s Parkersburg plant as Cincinnati.

Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Meldahl hydro countdown

It looks like construction work on the hydroelectric plant at the Meldahl Locks and Dam could begin this summer. Details here.

The plant would be built on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, as the locks are on the Ohio side.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

I caught the first two episodes of the new tv show "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" this past Friday night on ABC. Two of my kids attend Huntington High School, where Oliver wants to re-do the menu to provide healthier food.

My 10th grader, Joey, has no love for Oliver. The next episode will show an incident at which my son was present. It seems Oliver grabbed the fries of some kids' trays and held them up the camera or said they were no longer on the menu. He took food off kids' plates.

My son said Oliver prepared some kind of crunchy macaroni dish that was pretty nasty. That could be true, but remember that's coming from a kid who thinks the four basic food groups are macaroni, chocolate, doughnuts, and chocolate doughnuts.

So why is this here? Because the show had some nice helicopter shots of Huntington from the air. In particular, flybys of the East End bridge in the crimson light of dawn and a mid-day flyover of the 6th Street Bridge (technically, the Robert C. Byrd Bridge) were wonderful. (Joey to Adam during one of those shots: Stop yelling out the name of every bridge you see).

To fill things out, the show had a few town shots that weren't from Huntington itself. For example, it showed a Norfolk Southern train going through a railroad crossing. That was probably shot down where Ceredo and Kenova butt up against each other.

And there was an overhead shot of an intersection I didn't recognize.

Anyway, if you want to see some scenes of where the Ross family lives (actually, we live a few miles outside of town, but we have a Huntington mailing address) and where the two Ross teens go to school, catch the next episode.

More on the ghost fleet

The fleet of towboats headed for Pittsburgh for scrap or rebuilds got through the Pike Island Locks and Dam this morning. A Flickr member who goes by the name WillynWV was there to get some photos. You can see them here.

On a related note, I just got off the phone with David Smith, who runs the company that formerly owned the Trojan, one of the boats being taken upriver. He said the boat is structurally sound, and its new owner is thinking about rebuilding it. That would be good news for a boat built in 1923 at Marietta Manufacturing at Point Pleasant WV.

UPDATE: The Flickr member known as wvtowboater has added photos taken when the fleet passed Marietta OH. 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Steven J. Mason at RCB

While Adam and I were at the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam the other night (3/18) waiting for the mv. Evan Wharton to arrive, we got to see the mv. Steven J. Mason lock through downbound. Adam has wanted to see this boat since he read that it had a retractable pilothouse before being rebuilt a few years ago.

Here is the boat in the lock with 15 coal loads.

Here, a few minutes earlier, two deck hands are talking about something as the lead barges approach the lower gates.

And here is the Mason after it has left the locks, downbound for I don't know where. I do know the pilot isn't about to let any moss grow on his propellers, as the boat is moving at a good speed.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Passing through

The fleet of boats destined for rebuilds or scrapping in Pittsburgh got back moving again Thursday after being laid up by high water for a few days. I saw it while coming down Ohio Route 7 in the afternoon. I turned around and got a few photos from Athalia OH ...

... then I went home.

First, I called Chuck Minsker at the Huntington District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. I explained what the scrap fleet was, and he made a call to allow Adam and me inside the security area at the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam so we could see the fleet as it went through the locks.

Then I had to wait for Adam to get off the school bus. When he found out where we were going, he jumped up and down in joy like I hadn't seen out of him for a while, since maybe back in September when I told him we were going to Point Pleasant WV to tour the mv. Mountain State.

The fleet was moving at maybe 4 mph, so we had plenty of time once we got to the locks. We arrived as the mv. Oliver C. Shearer was leaving upbound. And we got to see the Steven J. Mason lock through downbound. Adam had been waiting a while too see that one, ever since he read its history on Dick's Towboat Gallery. As we watched it lock through, Adam told me when it was built and when it was rebuilt.

We had to wait maybe another half hour before he saw the scrap fleet come into view around the bend downriver. We got in the car and drove down the fishing road to the far end of the public access area there on the West Virginia side. I knew the fleet would have to pass close to shore to enter the locks, so we went down to the river level to shoot some photos.

Then it was back to the locks. As we watched the boats enter, it looked like the mv. Evan Wharton was doing the pushing and the mv. Tater Bug was helping  out with the steering.

We stayed there until the boats left the lock.

(I may put up three photos of the Steven J. Mason and its tow later on).


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Junk fleet is moving again

The fleet of boats headed for the scrap yard in Pittsburgh is moving again. I saw it today and was able to get several good photos. I'll try to post some tomorrow after I can go through them.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

At night

Sorry for several days of no posts, but I've been preoccupied with a few things away from the river. I hope to get back into things in a day or so.

Meanwhile, here's a photo that almost worked. It's the mv. W.H. Dickhoner passing Huntington WV at night.

Technically, the photo has a few problems, but I like it anyway.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mud bogging on asphalt

I had to take one of the kids somewhere this morning, so on the way home I took a side trip to the boat ramp at the mouth of the Guyandotte River. I knew there would be several feet of mud left over from this week's high water. That was on top of the mud that was left a few weeks ago but never removed. There was no reason to remove it, because the river was sure to come up again as soon as the snow in the mountains melted.

Anyway, when I got there, I saw a guy in a Dodge Durango doing doughnuts in the mud. He was kicking up some dark, wet mud as he drove around the boat ramp. In some places, he had a hard time getting traction.

I might be wrong, but he could end up regretting his little joy ride. By accident, I wound up in some mud action like that a few weeks ago. I went to a car wash, and the hoses there could not get all the mud out from my wheel wells. I had to go home and use my hands to pull the mud out of there before I could hose the remainder out. I'm sure this guy's mud was worse than mine. I hope he got it out  before it dried. Otherwise, he's in for a fun, nasty, smelly time.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mercury in the air and water

From today's edition of The Columbus Dispatch:

While mercury emissions from power plants across the United States have decreased in recent years, the amount released at American Electric Power's Gavin plant in southeastern Ohio more than doubled from 2007 to 2008.

That puts Gavin and two other Ohio coal-fired power plants on a list of the top 50 mercury polluters in the United States.

You can read the whole thing here.

Rodent rescued

In Ohio, even the lives of groundhogs are precious.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Towboat sunk near Cincinnati; crewmember missing

The towboat Ceredo has sunk in the Ohio River near Cincinnati, and one crewmember is missing and presumed drowned. 

The high water is forcing delays in recovery efforts. It's a reminder of how dangerous the river is at times.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Uh oh

Someone sent a comment with the names of the six boats being pushed by the Evan Wharton. I thought I approved it, but I might have rejected it by mistake. That was half an hour ago, and I don't see it on any topics. Could whoever sent that comment please re-send the list?

Thank you.

Another day, another milestone

Adam should be pleased when he gets home from school (fourth grade) today. Usually, he walks through the front door at 3 p.m. A few minutes later, he's on the Internet checking vessel locations. He goes to the Corps of Engineers, Ingram and AEP sites that we have bookmarked so he can find what's in our area.

And he goes to Dick's Towboat Gallery. A few weeks ago, we sent some photos there. Today, I noticed that a photo credited to both of us has been added.

It's this one of the Paula Ruble, that we shot on an arctic Sunday in January.

Adam wanted partial credit for the photo because he was the one who had figured out that a new Crounse boat was in this area, and he wanted us to go find it, even if the wind chill was below zero. And we did.

He was wearing my gloves and my hat when this was taken, by the way. Lucky for me I carried a spare of each.

Adam figured that if he was the one who knew the boat was coming, he should get partial credit.

Adam was already the youngest published photojournalist in the family. In 2008, when I was the opinion page editor of the newspaper in Huntington WV, I needed a photo to go with an editorial about the first day of school. So, I used one Adam had taken of two rows of buses at the county bus garage.

More than likely, he will be more proud of being on Dick's Towboat Gallery than he was of being in the local paper.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Three rakes, a box and more

A few more high water photos today from a trip downriver.

1. The river was high enough at Catlettsburg KY that the barges that you normally look down to see are now at eye level.

2. Several days ago, a reader alerted me to the mv. Evan Wharton heading upriver with six towboats scheduled to be scrapped at Pittsburgh. The boat has been in the Greenup pool for several days. Here I found the boats -- and a few more -- tied up to the Ohio shore across from Ashland KY.

3. And here is a sequence of the mv. R. Clayton McWhorter approaching and going under the two Ohio River bridges at Ashland.

The R. Clayton McWhorter is one of Adam's favorite boats, and he was extremely disappointed to learn it probably will pass Huntington after dark, when he won't be able to see it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

High water

A few scenes from high water in this part of the Ohio Valley today (Sunday):

The lower bullnose at the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam, nee Gallipolis Locks and Dam.

On the Kanawha River, high water allows for better viewing of some of my favorite old boats.

Back down the Ohio on the Ohio side, seven of the eight rollers at R.C. Byrd were out of the water. Why the other roller remained in the river, I have no idea.

As the water rushed around the dam piers, it kind of piled up.

The only boat we saw on the Ohio was the Sylvia H, which Adam and I saw Friday evening passing Huntington upbound. Here it's tied to the West Virginia shore about two miles below R.C. Byrd with the same barge tow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Good-bye, good weather

The river bank here at Huntington was starting to dry out. Yesterday I went to one of my favorite photo spots by the river, but I couldn't get to it because the water was up. Now the Weather Service is predicting 1 to 2 to 3 inches of rain this weekend, or some other nasty amount following a beautiful week of dry weather and temperatures in the upper 60s and low 70s. Add to that the snow melt up in the mountains, and we could have some high water again in a few days.

Oh well.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Photo fantasies

Somewhere in my basement (I hope), separated from my other photos and slides, are two that I took while riding the mv. Valvoline in 1988. One was taken out on the tow as we passed under Huntington's East End bridge one morning shortly after sunrise. You see the front of the boat, some barges, the cables of the bridge and, I think, the sun, too. It was a glorious photo.

The second photo is of three guys mopping (souging) the deck between the smokestacks. The photo was taken from pilothouse level.

Somehow, someday, I want to ride a boat again -- a working towboat pushing loaded coal barges. I want to get shoot deckhands as they work the wires and as they souge. I want to get a silhouette photo of a pilot as he guides his tow through locks. I want to get nighttime shots of men working out on the barges. And I want to get a shot from the barges looking back at the boat as it goes under a bridge. 

Preferably, that would be a distinctive bridge such as the old suspension bridge at Maysville KY, the U.S. Grant Bridge at Portsmouth OH, Huntington's East End bridge or the Blennerhassett Bridge below Parkersburg WV. Or, any of the old railroad bridges between Wheeling and Pittsburgh. It's been almost 20 years since I was up that way, but I remember many of those bridges, and seeing them from the river with a boat in the foreground would be terrific, eh?

So as I enjoy that fantasy, I'll settle for photos like this one.

This was taken at Henderson WV, near the CSX railroad bridge that crosses the Kanawha River to Point Pleasant. The boat is the Buckeye State of AEP.

Hmm. Maybe I need to list my fantasy photos, or places along the river I really want to add to my bucket list. Who knows what doors would open.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dangerous turbulence

Ohio River dams can be dangerous places for small boats. A man lost his life Monday when his boat got caught in currents coming from the Newburgh Locks and Dam.

I've seen fishermen take their small boats up close to the rollers at the Gallipolis Locks and Dam. At least once I saw a dam worker shoo them away because they were too close to the turbulent water.

Color is coming

It's warm out today. The weather people on TV say we should hit 70 degrees this afternoon. There's a sunset I want to shoot this week, but other than that there's not a lot of color here at Mile 300. So, I dug into the archives and found this shot of what we can look forward to in April.

These are tulips planted and maintained by volunteers at Harris Riverfront Park here in Huntington WV. Color is a month away. Those of us who like our countryside in something other than brown can count down the days.

Monday, March 8, 2010

News article about McGinnis Inc.

Sunday's The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington had a nice writeup about the McGinnis Inc. barge and boat repair operation at South Point OH, including its new $30 million barge rehab facility. The article was written by my old friend (old in terms of friendship, not in her age) Jean Tarbett Hardiman.

Living by the Ohio

From a Wheeling newspaper, a short article in praise of living beside the Ohio River.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A great photo weekend

This was a good weekend to visit the banks of the Ohio River and its tributaries. Sunshine, drying mud ... a lot of good things were going on.

I got lots of good pictures of riverboats. I got new, good shots of the Nell, the Lawson W. Hamilton Jr., the Amber Brittany, the Capt. Ed Harris, and lots and lots of the Buckeye State.

There was even a shot I'd wanted to get for maybe a year, and I just missed it by a minute. But there will be other opportunities.

Having said that, this is my favorite river photo of the weekend.

That's Adam by the mouth of the Kanawha River shortly after sunset. He's a kid who enjoys the river and who wants to live beside it someday,  just as his dad did for many years and wants to do again.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


It appears that the black duck population in the Ohio Valley is on the decline while mallards are doing okay. Here's one news report about some possible reasons.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ravenswood WV: A coming ghost town?

(Sorry to be late posting this. I meant to read a certain news article yesterday, but forgot).

An article in USA Today focused on Ravenswood WV, a town along the Ohio River below Parkersburg, in an article on how some small towns reliant on one large employer are one shutdown away from becoming ghost towns. Unlike the ghost towns of yesterday, however, these ghost towns will have plenty of people who have no place to go.

I liked this line in the article:

In the America where things are made, the recession has been a depression. According to a new Northeastern University study, one in every six blue-collar industrial jobs have disappeared since 2007, matching the drop in overall employment in the Great Depression.

Feel free to comment, but the no-politics rule still applies.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

This, that and one more thing

Snakes on a plane? How about bobcat on a barge?

From the story, no one appeared to be in any danger from the bobcat, which may have been domesticated. But it probably makes an interesting story to tell the family when you get back home.

As an Ohio University graduate who has made occasional visits to non-self-propelled cargo vessels, perhaps I could call myself a Bobcat on a barge, but it wouldn't be the same.

Okay, that's a stretch. Forgive me.


If you want to build a coal-to-liquids fuel plant along the Ohio River and if one landowner you have to deal with is convicted of making meth, you might get a good deal on the property.


For an update on salvaging what's left of the Becky Thatcher, you can click here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bridge design time

In Cincinnati, there seems to be a discussion of what a new bridge over the Ohio River should look like. So far there are six design proposals -- one steel arch and five cable stay -- that are up for discussion.

As much as I like cable stay bridges, I must admit the arch design looks good to me. For one thing, the new bridge would be built next to an older steel truss bridge. From what I've seen from Flickr contact DewCon in La Crosse, Wisc., that arrangement looks mighty fine. Look at this photo and this one and this one and this one.

When I was in Japan nine years ago, I saw at least one cable stay bridge with slanted support towers. It did nothing for me.

The movers and shakers in the Cincinnati area want "an internationally acclaimed design" for their new bridge. If you read the comments section in the article, you'll see that some people don't care what the bridge looks like. They want something that's functional and will last a long time.

One more thing: The news article said the Ohio River at Cincinnati isn't wide enough to build a suspension bridge. I know of at least one suspension bridge over the Ohio -- the two-lane Simon Kenton Bridge at Maysville KY. And there used to be one at Portsmouth OH. I don't know if 

a) the designers didn't want to deal with a suspension bridge;

b) there isn't suitable anchorage on both shores for a suspension bridge in Cincinnati; or

c) a four-lane suspension bridge has a different set of design needs than a two-lane one

but there is at least one suspension bridge over the Ohio. I just wanted to get that in.