Sunday, August 14, 2011

End of summer

Forget the equinox. Forget Labor Day. Adam considers today the last day of summer, as the school year here in Cabell County, W.Va., starts tomorrow. He's moving on to middle school tomorrow, meaning he gets on the bus 45 minutes earlier (about 6:10 a.m.) and gets home an hour later (4 p.m.).

Our impromptu last-day-of-summer plans got busted by an afternoon shower, so we went to the harbor at Kenova, W.Va., to see if there were any boats around. Nope. So we went over to Catlettsburg, Ky., to see if something could be seen there. Nope.

So we tried the new riverfront park at Ashland, Ky. Not much there, so we left and crossed the bridge to head to Ironton, Ohio. But we saw the Mountain State coming down the river, so we turned around and watched it head past us, under the bridge and ahead on down the river. We went ahead on to Russell, Ky., to watch the Mountain State pass under the 89-year-old Ironton-Russell Bridge.

We had a good time, as it was our last towboat chase of summer vacation, and I got some decent pictures. It's one of those things that I have to set aside time to download, choose and edit.

As for Adam's older brother, he's about to enjoy his last first day of school. He looks at today as the last good, honorable, decent day of the year, at least until his cousin from down South comes in for a visit on either Labor Day weekend or Thanksgiving weekend.

Meanwhile, I have two more loads of laundry to do and a number-crunching project for my day job that needs to be finished by tomorow morning. I've got a long way to go and a short time to get there ...


The Olmstead Locks and Dam at the far lower end of the Ohio River was supposed to complete the replacement of the old lock and dam system that was completed in 1929. Only two of those old dams are left -- 52 between Paducah and Metropolis,  and 53 about 24 miles below Paducah. Locks 52 and 53 received new, "temporary" 1,200-foot locks in the 1970s, with the idea the two dams were to be replaced by Olmstead. The first of the new system of locks and dams on the Ohio River became operational in the late 1950s. The most recent was the Smithland Locks and Dam, which was finished in 1980. Around 1990 or so, new locks were completed at what is now Robert C. Byrd.

Now it looks like Olmstead is running into significant cost overruns beyond its $2.1 billion price tag.

So 52 and 53 are operating beyond their replacement times. At the other end of the river, the Montgomery Locks and Dam has problems that could eventually lead to failure of the dam and loss of the navigation pool. In the present climate, where will money come from for these projects? Throw in that most people are would probably spend $3 billion or $4 billion replacing overworked highway bridges at Cincinnati and Louisville.

That's right, billions for big bridges. That's what they cost now.

And what about all those cities along the river that need to separate their sanitary and storm sewers?

Lots of needs and not a whole lot of money available. I'm guessing bridge tolls, higher river user fees and higher local utility costs are in the future. But I've been wrong before. That's why he's Bill Gates and I'm not.

Two more boats

The James E. Niven looks like it's making tow with the help of the Florence T. This was inside the mouth of the Kanawha River. Sometime later, the Nivin was downbound on the Ohio. We saw the Nivin as it looked like it was backing into the Kanawha with the Florence T's help.

And the D.A. Grimm.

Coming at noon: Expensive infrastructure needs