Friday, January 22, 2010

Lock work

For years, the Huntington District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has talked about lengthening the auxiliary (smaller) lock at the Greenup Locks and Dam from its present 600 feet to 1,200 feet to match the length of the main lock. It has talked about innovative construction methods so construction would not require the closure of the main lock.

Now the corps is planning work at the J. T. Myers Locks and Dam (nee Uniontown Locks and Dam) just upstream from Evansville, Ind. The corps says it needs to cut away part of the riverbank to widen the area because barge tows keep hitting the bank as they approach the locks there. A news article from the Evansville Courier & Press on this is here.

The Greenup locks, which are the first ones below my home base of Huntington, W.Va., were basically designed in the 1940s. I know that because when I worked for the Huntington newspaper, I found an article from 1949 in the archives about a public hearing where the corps said it needed Greenup to replace locks and dams 27, 28, 29 and 30. Construction began in the 1950s, and the project was finished in -- I think -- 1961.

Greenup was one of the first of the modern dams on the Ohio. Another was New Cumberland, between Wheeling and Pittsburgh. The others new locks and dams were built on the same model.

These things are 50 years old or older, not counting the three -- Emsworth, Dashields and Montgomery -- closest to Pittsburgh. The system needs all the upgrades it can get to ensure it endures another 50 years. The only wild card in this that I can see is coal. Most of the barge traffic on the Ohio is coal, much of which is used at power plants. Coal is under increasing scrutiny. The only alternatives I can see to replace coal in the Ohio Valley are natural gas and nuclear. I don't know about gas, but I do know that bringing nuclear into the region is a difficult, time-consuming and possibly politically poisonous process.

But the river is out of sight, out of mind to most people. They don't see it, so it doesn't affect their lives.

I don't deal with the locks and dams on a daily or weekly basis, so I'm in no position to say what absolutely needs to be done. Maybe Greenup and Myers need their extended locks. Maybe they don't. I just don't know.

What I don't hear coming out of Washington, D.C., lately is a lot of talk about inland navigation infrastructure nationally.

In other words, I have no idea what's going on behind the scenes, so maybe that's where I'll leave it right now. Oh, how I miss having access to find out this kind of stuff.

Cairo-area bridges noted

One of my favorite blogs is, a place where guys talk about the good and the bad of automotive history. I really like it when they take an old car -- such as my first, a Mustang II -- and talk about why its shortcomings make it such an object of desire.

Anyway, Car Lust Blog writer Chris Hafner has written an excellent piece praising the internal combustion engine. It's worth a read.

What makes that piece relative to this blog is this from the comments section, from a writer who calls himself That Car Guy:

The drive from St. Louis to Nashville is quite pleasant. I took I-55 South to Sykeston (sp?), then I-57 over to Charleston. From there, Hwy 60 to Wyckliffe, over what must be two of the most amazing, narrowest, hugest bridges of their type in the country, where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers meet. I did this last summer in the Miata with the top down, and the thrill of meeting a wide semi on those tight lanes, while about 100 feet above the waters, must be experienced to be believed.

I haven't been that far down the Ohio River since 1986, but I remember some narrow bridges down there. And I've seen enough photos on Flickr to tell me those bridges are still there.

Getting back down there is a priority once I find work and get some money in my pocket again.

P.S. I've toyed with the idea of a series called "Bridge Lust," where I write about my favorite bridges on the Ohio and its tributaries. It would include bridges I haven't seen or haven't seen n a long time, such as the one at Cairo.