Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Power plants using too much water?

So are coal-burning power plants along the Ohio River using too much water? One group thinks so, and it wants the federal government to release documents on its study of water use by electric generating stations.

Quoting from the news release:

"As growing swaths of the United States face dwindling water supplies and even outright drought, the U.S. electric sector already withdraws 42 trillion gallons of water each year — more than 200 billion gallons a day, the equivalent of more than half of the water flowing through the Ohio River each year. ...

"… we estimate that generators along the Ohio River withdraw so much water that for every gallon which spills into the Mississippi River at Cairo, IL, one cup has passed through a generator on the banks of the Ohio River, and one tablespoon has evaporated to the atmosphere …According to data collected by the United States Geographic Survey (USGS), water withdrawals from thermoelectric power sources account for 49 percent of total withdrawals in the United States in 2005. This is equivalent to more than 201 billion gallons of water per day that is used for power plant cooling alone."

Pedestrian access on bridges

Some bridges over the Ohio River are not made for pedestrian use. I assume it's because these bridges are made for high-speed traffic, and the designers figure that where the bridges are located that no one would want to walk across them anyway. Perhaps they're right. I know of several bridges like that. I also know of at least one bridge that connects a city to a spot on the other side where you won't find a house or a business for a mile in either direction, but it has a sidewalk. And I know a bridge that connects two residential areas that has no sidewalk. Yet almost every day you see someone walking across it, braving traffic while walking on a berm that is at most three feet wide.

Having said that, words cannot express the horror that a Cincinnati man must have felt when a car knocked him off the bridge Friday morning. He fell 65 feet into the river. His body was recovered Saturday.

Without knowing all the details and without being familiar with the Brent Spence Bridge, I don't want to give any opinions on this particular incident. But I can say that pedestrian access to a lot of Ohio River bridges -- some have it, some don't -- makes no particular sense to me sometimes. And I'm thankful I've never had the misfortune of being on a bridge with no sidewalk when my car stops running. I've seen that happen once on a bridge I was walking across at the time. The guys in the pickup that stopped were lucky someone didn't plow into them, considering how people drive.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Benwood Bridge saga, one year later

Who gets to tear down an old Ohio River bridge between West Virginia and Ohio -- and gets to sell the scrap metal -- will be decided by a judge in Idaho.

Rust in peace

I assume this barge once was used as a place to park other barges, but from the looks of things, that was long ago. This was taken in the Bradrick or Corryville area of Lawrence County, Ohio, at about Mile 306.5.

The Huntington area has a few beached barges that are slowly corroding away to nothingness.

Tennessee Hunter

Today while I was out I looked for boats but didn't see any. I was crossing a bridge to go home when I saw the Tennessee Hunter coming my way. For some reason, I don't have a lot of good photos of Jeffboat-built towboats, so I figured why not see what we could come up with. Or what I could come up with, as Adam is spending the weekend at his grandmother's and was not available to help.

I am told the flag on the front of the tow is called the windsail. Usually they bear the company logo of the boat doing the pushing. A few weeks ago I saw a tow using a POW-MIA flag. Today, it was this windsail.

Passing 311 fleet with the Steven J. Mason of Ingram Marine in the background. There was light rain falling, sort of a mist. I could remove it with photo editing software, but this is how the scene looked, so I'm letting it be.

And heading south.

Too bad Adam wasn't with me. He could have gotten some good shots of the Mason as we crossed the bridge back into West Virginia. The bridge doesn't  have a sidewalk, and the berm is a a few inches wide. It's a two-lane bridge connecting two four-lane highways, and traffic can move pretty fast, so I would have to be pretty desperate for a photo to walk up on there.

Friday, June 24, 2011

You're not exactly catching me at my best here

I took a day off today to concentrate on stuff that breaks my heart -- you know, trying to figure out how to borrow money to fix up my house with overdue repairs. Now that I'm working again, I can afford them. In theory.

While I was out, I saw the W.H. Dickhoner coming down the river.

I could probably put up a gallery of boats part way through a paint job, but I won't.

Right behind the Dickhoner was the James G. Hines.

Looks kind of good with that backdrop, doesn't it? If only I could have shot them in early morning light -- my favorite. Maybe some other time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Junk food junkies

How about that? Going to the park down by the river and feeding the ducks and geese your old stale bread and popcorn is like feeding them junk food.

Is diesel exhaust a hazardous solid waste?

Here's a story from The Associated Press that ... well, I'll let it speak for itself.

LOS ANGELES - An environmental group threatened to sue two of the nation's biggest rail owners Tuesday under a novel legal theory that would classify diesel exhaust as hazardous waste. ...

The conservation group argues that minute particles in diesel air pollution, which include lead, cadmium, arsenic and other toxic elements, are solid waste. If successful, such a suit could open the door for legal action against similar air pollution sources such as ports, airports or anywhere with a lot of diesel equipment, said David Pettit, a senior attorney with the council.

I live near Huntington, W.Va., which has one of CSX's heavy locomotive repair shops. They bring in a lot of locomotives and overhaul them. About 20 miles down the Ohio River is Russell, Ky., where CSX has a large yard. Another 30 miles down is a Norfolk Southern yard at Portsmouth, Ohio.

And we won't talk about the diesel exhaust that comes from the boats at the mouth of the Big Sandy River. When the navigation charts describe that place as a congested area, they're not kidding.

It's a legal theory that will have to play itself out in the courts. Beyond that, I don't know what else to say right now. Maybe I'll have something later.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Driftwood as art ... and other news

Some of us see driftwood in the Ohio River and think, okay, that's wood. This story tells of a woman who collects that wood and turns it into art. Okay.

She has been a motivational speaker. I've always wondered how to get a job like that. My problem is that I would probably turn into a demotivational speaker.


And it looks like the spring floods cost people in Louisville a fishing spot.


And a barge has been launched to travel  up and down the river to pick up trash and educate kids.

Monday, June 20, 2011

More on Marmet

Here is some more information on the Marmet Locks and Dam on the Kanawha River, mentioned in my previous post.

I checked the Corps of Engineers' online searchable database of cargo movements to see how much coal moves through Marmet in a year. The reason: When I was up above Marmet last Monday, I was surprised, sort of, by the number of river terminals accepting coal from big trucks and loading it onto barges. We used to have several of those things on the Ohio River in my area, from Portsmouth to Pomeroy, Ohio, but they started going away in the 1980s as coal mines played out.

Here are the numbers for the three navigation dams on the Kanawha, listing coal movements from June 1, 2010, to May 31, 2011:

Winfield: 2,911,185 tons upbound; 12,234,566 tons downbound.
Marmet: 135,500 tons upbound; 12,861,802 tons downbound.
London: 18,000 tons upbound; 3,150,448 tons downbound.

I can't speak for chemical or metals plants on the Kanawha that might use coal, mainly because I don't know of any. But I do know there are two coal-burning power plants on the Kanawha. One is the Kanawha River plant in the Marmet pool. The other is the John Amos plant, one of the dozen largest coal-burning plants in the US. It's in the Winfield pool, and it would explain some of the numbers.

If you start at the London pool and work your way downriver, you see there's a net increase of 9,711,354 tons moving through Marmet and a net decrease of 627,236 tons through Winfield. If you look at the upbound numbers, you see a net decrease of 2,775,685 tons between Winfield and Marmet. That tells me Amos and other users in the Winfield pool consumed 3,402,921 tons of coal that moved on the Kanawha River. If my math is right -- I'm doing this by hand -- that's 2,269 barges of coal loaded to 1,500 tons each.

Another thing: The 2.9 million tons that came upbound through Winfield had to come from the Ohio River.

Downbound, Marmet handled about 8,575 loaded coal barges and Winfield 8,157. Again, about all of the coal that moved through Winfield downbound went to the Ohio River.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Marmet on the Kanawha

I took this photo last Monday. It's the Marmet Locks and Dam on the Kanawha River. This angle shows the hydroelectric plant at the abutment end of the dam. The hydro plant opened in 1935, according to a sign on the site.

I put the photo in a Facebook album, after which a Facebook friend added this comment:

"In the mid 70's, the air pollution was so bad up there that they used to say you had to have leather lungs and steel eyes to be a lock man at Marmet."

Here's another photo of the dam, emphasizing the piers and the rollers.

After I took these photos and saw them on my computer, I noticed that almost no water was flowing under the rollers. Most or all of it must have been coming through the hydroelectric plant.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

One boat at Huntington, one boat at Ashland

The Captain James Anderson passed Huntington Friday evening. This was taken facing north, with the sun  in the sky and washing out colors and other details in the left of these photos.

And here is the Bridget Caulley passing Ashland, Ky., today.

As Adam and  I watched it pass, we both wondered if Capt. David Smith was aboard.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bridge names

My favorite name for a bridge in my part of the Ohio River: The Silver Memorial Bridge.

Least favorite: The Frank "Gunner" Gatski Memorial Bridge.

Next least favorite: Any bridge bearing a politician's name that functions as a taxpayer-subsidized campaign contribution.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Catching up on the news

It's been a busy week at work, but now I have time to catch  up on some Ohio River news of recent days, such as:

This year is Coney Island's 125th anniversary.

Some carp were found dead down around Louisville, leading to fears there had been a chemical spill in the river, but it turned out to be an algae bloom. The fish suffocated from lack of oxygen.

A 106-year-old bridge over the river is scheduled to re-open this October after repairs are finished. If overweight trucks start crossing it, sensors will detect it. The bridge is at Follansbee, W.Va.

Speaking of bridges, the Blue Bridge at downtown Owensboro, Ky., will close for repairs on July 5.

Somewhere around Manchester, Ohio, there's a stolen safe in the Ohio River.

And in case no one had guessed, government scientists say the weather extremes we saw in April were like something never before seen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hydropower update

In this week's issue of The State Journal, I have a few stories related to hydropower and coal-fired power.

An overview of hydro development in West Virginia is here.

Here's a piece on rehabilitating the 112-year-old hydroelectric station on the Kanawha River at Glen Ferris.

And here's something on American Electric Power's announcement last week that it would accelerate plans to shut down several older coal-fired power plants, including some on the Ohio River. And here's another.

That in addition to some other stuff in there, and I had a pretty busy week.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Upbound at Belleville

Taken a few days ago. This is an AEP boat -- I think it's the Roger W. Keeney -- upbound leaving the Belleville Locks and Dam.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Roger W. Keeney passing Huntington

Adam and I had to be in Huntington late this afternoon, so we went down to Harris Riverfront Park to see if there was anything to see. As it turns out, the Roger  W. Keeney was about to go under the 6th Street bridge, so we got some photos of it going by, including some of the boat passing by while people fished from the shore.

At Big Sandy Harbor

The last time I noticed the R.H. Beymer, it was helping the Lee Synnott push 29 barges up the Ohio River from Huntington to around Point Pleasant. Today Adam and I saw it coming out of the Big Sandy River right as we were driving into Virginia Point Park. It turned up the Ohio with some empties that I assume were going to 311 fleet.

And we saw the Marathon heading downriver with a full load of petroleum products.

This one was taken at the Catlettsburg boat ramp, where the view was better.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Jeffery Manning sends along these photos of the Paul G. Blazer on the Mississippi River. Used with permission.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Three boats on the Kanawha

When I arrived at work this morning, I saw the Fred Way coming up the Kanawha River. As it passed me, the Iron Duke came out of the Elk and turned downbound. On the way home, when I stopped at a gas station to put 13.461 gallons in a 13.5-gallon tank (yes, I was nervous for a while), I saw the Juanita across the river.

A bad day for traffic, a good day for seeing boats.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Another Mail Pouch barn

So here I am, sitting at home trying to get over a summer cold Adam brought home from school. I'm trying to work on a couple of things for work if only people would return my calls and e-mails.

The story that was going to be in this week's issue has been held until next week. That's okay, as it should get better play and more space then.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of photos I got in Mason County WV yesterday. I was on Route 2 heading home from a photo-and-video shoot. This was a little east of Point Pleasant along the part of the road that heads straight east (or as close as you can get to that in a state with no straight lines) from Point Pleasant rather than following the river.

As I got out of my car to shoot these, a couple of people who live across the road from the barn began talking to me. A woman said she wished she had a dollar for everyone who has stopped to get a picture of this barn. Her neighbor and I began talking about other Mail Pouch barns in the area and how some of them are deteriorating or gone.

I hadn't been on this section of road in daylight since maybe 1999. In those days, I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to Mail Pouch barns. I wish now that I had. At least I have a photo of one in the Swan Creek area of Gallia County, Ohio, that was torn down about 20 years ago.

Whenever I drive along the river road or a back road, I get a photo if I can.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Stuff to do

Pictures are backing up.

First are some that I shot today while working on a story for this week's State Journal.

And last night I found a couple of photos that one of my brothers took of the Sprague on a trip up the Ohio River in the 1960s or thereabouts. If I still worked at my place of former employment, I could check the old clip files and get an estimate of the date, as I recall seeing a photo of the Sprague being pushed past Ironton, Ohio.

From my brother's photos of the  Sprague, it looked like it was being pushed by a boat resembling the Fred Way. But the photo is old, and it was taken with consumer-level camera and film of that time.

If anyone has any information the last trip of the Sprague up the Ohio or a good link, feel free to forward it as I get those pictures ready to post on here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mud from the flood

After a couple of months of  high water, a lot of mud accumulated at the Guyandotte boat ramp, Mile 305 or thereabouts. That meant these guys took their equipment into the water to get the mud out so boaters can play on the Ohio River again.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I saw the Mountain State today for the first time in a long time. Cool.

And the Capt. Deane Orr, too.

The Orr was using this flag -- a POW/MIA flag -- at the head of the tow. I assume this is for Memorial Day and not a year-round custom for Consol Energy, but I just don't know. Adam, who turns 12 later this year, was with me, and I explained what the flag meant.

Ah, a boat and a river. Life am good.

Black and white, part 10

If I had to choose a favorite modern black-and-white photo of a towboat only -- no kids 00  it would probably be this one. It's the Fred Way at the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam last summer. It's got a nice-looking boat, and it has my favorite dam in the background,.

Having said that, the Fred Way looks pretty good in color, too.

I'll probably revisit black and white someday. But I have to worry about a couple of other things photographically right now.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Black and white, part 9

This is the next-to-last group of black-and-white photos. The final one is tomorrow.

So here are some boats:

The Kentucky.

The Marathon.

The Bill Stile.

The Omar.

And the West Virginia.