Friday, September 30, 2011

Grassy sunset

I was down by the river yesterday evening waiting for my older son, Joey, to finish his Marine Corps PT. I was shooting various things, but a field of high grass caught my eye. Either I'm not that good at macro photography or my equipment isn't. This is the best I got.

If my assistant had been with me ...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Nutrient cap and trade

Here's more on the Ohio River nutrient cap and trade system from my favorite reporter at my favorite weekly newspaper.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A nice person on a nice day

There are some nice people who live along the Ohio River.

Adam and I have a rule when we're looking for new locations to get river pictures. We stay on the public right of way unless someone specifically invites us onto their private property. Sometimes we don't know what's public and what's private. At those times, we look for litter or other signs of frequent public use.

There are times when I'm shooting and someone invites me to use his back yard. That happened today in Chesapeake, Ohio. I was there to cover a meeting in Huntington. I had about a half hour before I had to be in City Hall, so I went to Harris Riverfront Park and saw a Viking with AEP colors coming under the 6th Street bridge. I stood in a narrow street until a man standing beside a house told me, "Use the yard. Everybody else does." So I stood at the top of the riverbank and got this shot of the M/V R.L. Carter Jr. passing beautiful downtown Huntington.

I looked for the man, but I didn't see him. I should have knocked on his door, probably.

Whoever you were, thanks. And I do plan to knock on your door the next nice day I'm on your street.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A gray, rainy, cool autumn evening along the Ohio River at the mouth of the Big Sandy at Kenova, West Virginia

You can probably figure out what these things are without further comment from me, so here goes.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Some stuff in the news

I knew The Courier-Journal would come through with a story like this: The impact of the Sherman Minton Bridge closing on Louisville-area businesses.


The Power of 32, a Pittsburgh-based group of counties comprising the headwaters of the Ohio River, says it will announce a comprehensive plan in November of 10 to 12 projects.


Finally, please forgive me for more or less ignoring President Obama's appearance in Cincinnati the other day to talk about bridges, his jobs program and such. There is no way to get into that without getting into the politics involved. I'm trying to keep this blog nonpolitical for several reasons. I'll let the punditocracy dissect the president's appearance and all that goes with it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

25 barges heading up the river

This evening I dropped Adam off at a friend's house for a birthday party and sleepover. Said friend lives about a mile from the boat ramp at the Huntington East End bridge, so I went down there to see if there were any pictures to be had.

As I looked up the Ohio River, I saw a Dravo 3200 boat (or a Steel boat; please don't be too picky with me right now) and a smaller boat a mile or so up the river. I thought one was overtaking the other until I realized their relative positions weren't changing. That could only mean they were traveling together, and that probably meant a big tow.

I've seen a few oversized tows on the river before. Last year we saw the Jackson H. Randolph pushing 25 downbound past Huntington. Earlier this year, Adam and I went up the river to see the Lee Synnott pushing 29 barges. In August 2010 Adam and I saw the Linda Reed upbound with 25. And Adam and I saw the Chuck Zebula rebuilding an oversize tow in summer 2010 after it had locked through  Gallipolis downbound one evening.

The largest two I ever saw on the Ohio was May 8, 1988, I think it was, when an AEP boat pushed 30 empties from the Ohio into the Kanawha.

This evening, with the angle of the setting sun, I figured I had better go to the Ohio side, and the best place to shoot would be old Lock and Dam 27 above Proctorville, at about Mile 301. Because I had shot large tows from high angles, I thought I would try this one closer to the river.

That may have been a mistake. The sun was behind the boat, so the head of the two was in shadow, and it was a few minutes before I could say with confidence that the tow looked to be five wide by five long. And not being high (rather, not being up high), I couldn't confirm that. But from the angles I got at the side of the river, it looked like 25.

Also, I had to use a wide angle lens to get all of the tow in the frame.

Here's a guy standing outside the pilothouse, just looking around.

And the William E. Porter and the Stephen T side by side.

I assume the Stephen T was along to take 10 of the barges through the Gallipolis locks before or after the Porter had taken 15 through.

A minute or two after the boats passed where I was standing, the sun went behind the hill behind me. The letters on the  Porter's nameboard went from blazing gold to a dull yellow. I was about to leave, but I wondered if I could get one last decent shot from the upper end of the old guidewall. Well, what was standing up there but a heron.

I didn't want to scare it off, so I had to shoot from far away in fading light. As I took a few pictures, I remembered how I was at this same spot three years ago -- in the days before the Ohio River Blog -- getting photos of the Delta Queen on its last trip down the Ohio. One of the photos I got was of a heron on this wall with the Delta Queen in the background.

After the William E. Porter had passed my position, I figured it was time to head back down the river. I was losing my light, and by the time the boat got to the next decent shooting spot, dark would have set in. So I drove back down the river, absentmindedly made a couple of wrong turns and finding myself in traffic leaving the Marshall football game. But I did get to see this Lamborghini up close.

I'm glad Adam understands that on my salary, I can't afford a car like this. Right now I couldn't afford to replace a tail light lens on a car like this.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sunset Pier

I had a few minutes before I had to pick up my older son, Joey, from his Marine Corps physical training program, so I went to Harris Riverfront Park on the Ohio River at Huntington. I got there in time to see the setting sun framed this way.


That's the Robert C. Byrd Bridge, by the way.

Locals call it the 6th Street Bridge.

Dam piers

I took a side trip home from work today, stopping by the Winfield Locks and Dam on the Kanawha River. I got a ton of photos, as the dam sort of faces the late afternoon sun. Perhaps I'll post more photos later, but this one sticks out at me.

When I took it, I was trying to get the mist at the base of the piers as the water flowed under and over the rollers.

When I downloaded the pictures tonight after helping someone with his homework, I noticed something that I didn't see when I took it.

To me, getting a good closeup of a heron in the wild is something like the Holy Grail.

Too often I scare one when I'm careless, and I kick myself for not being more observant as I'm walking to the river. This time I didn't even see it on the pier when I was there, and I didn't see it fly away while I was there.

One other thing about the Winfield Locks and Dam: On the side where I was shooting, there's a hydroelectric plant. When you walk to the fishing area farthest out in the river, you walk right by one of the outfalls. You can feel the water flowing around you. It's like, I guess, infrasound -- too low to hear. But you feel the vibration. It's so -- drawing upon my professional writer's vocabulary -- cool.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Two quick items

Here's some more on the new AEP towboat Mike Weisend. I've got to get on AEP's news list. Wait, I thought I was. Oh well.


The Ohio River ferry at Sistersville, W.Va., was saved by a $25,000 cash infusion from the state when it looked like the season would shut down early because of money problems.

One thing about this article: The mayor says Tyler County is the only Ohio River county in West Virginia that does not have a bridge to Ohio. That's sort of right. Wayne County doesn't have a highway bridge. It has a pretty neat railroad bridge, but no highway bridge.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A conference I just have to attend

I'll have to find a way to get the boss to suggest that I attend a couple of sessions ...

From a Marshall University news release:

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University will host a conference next week focusing on the economic and ecological potential of water resources in the Ohio River Basin.

The conference, “Ohio River Basin:  200 Years after the Voyage of the New Orleans,” will be held Sept. 26-28 on the Huntington campus and is being presented jointly by the Ohio River Basin Alliance and the Ohio River Basin Consortium for Research and Education.

Dr. Chuck Somerville, dean of Marshall’s College of Science, is a member of the conference planning committee.

“The goal of the conference is to bring together all the stakeholders to develop strategies and coordinate actions to help address the very complex water resource issues we face in the Ohio River Basin,” he said. “Participants will be actively engaged in working groups to help address water availability and management, enterprise and infrastructure, environmental restoration and protection, and sustainable growth.

He added that there will also be scientific and student research presentations, as well as panel discussions focusing on mussel restoration, river navigation, climate change and the development of gas resources in the Marcellus Shale formation. A tour of a Marathon Petroleum Company tow vessel, cleaning dock and water treatment plant are also part of the program.

According to the alliance’s website, the Ohio River Basin encompasses approximately 204,000 square miles. More than 27 million people live within the basin – almost 10 percent of the U.S. population – and the main stem Ohio River is a source of drinking water for more than three million people.

For more information, visit

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Four pics from a Sunday

Another Sunday, another trip up the Ohio River for family stuff. And along the way I saw...

The Sandy Drake upbound approaching Gallipolis, Ohio, with a load of stone, probably destined for a power plant scrubber.

An old, old Cadillac at a used car lot that normally sells fairly new vehicles.

The Tennessee Hunter making tow.

And a CSX train stopped in the Greenbottom area of Cabell County, W.Va.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Coal, politics and bridges ... oh my

Louisville Gas & Electric wants to convert the Cane Run Station power plant along the Ohio River from coal to gas because of environmental regulations. As usual, there are a lot of regulatory approvals that are needed, and a rate increase is included in the plan. And although a lot of gas is coming out of the ground in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia now, fuel for the plant would come from the Gulf Coast. More details in The Courier-Journal of Louisville.


According to this story, President Obama will come to the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati next week to plug his jobs plan.

Here's another take on the same story. It looks in more detail about the politics involved in the visit and how Obama's plan would still not pay the entire cost of dealing with the problem there in Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.


Here's a smaller bridge project that may not rank up there with bridge needs in Cincinnati and Louisville, but the Ohio Department of Transportation says Ironton will get its new Ohio River bridge soon. You'll have to take my word for it for now. The links function is acting crazy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Missed another one

AEP  has a new boat on the Ohio River. The M/V Mike Weisend came up as far as the Tanner Creek power plant in Indiana, then it turned around and headed back downriver. That left it about 200 miles short of where Adam and I go in search of boats.

But if you want to see it anyway, here's a photo.

How 'bout that ...

While an Ohio River bridge at Louisville is closed temporarily, people can ride a ferry for a dollar.

Makes me wish I could work in a trip down there.


Here's another take on the same story.


Meanwhile, this can't be good.


At the other end of the river, sternwheelers are arriving in Wheeling for a festival there. I like this article because it has a picture of the Port Explorer, which Adam steered a week and a half ago.

Monday, September 12, 2011

News items come in threes

This seems to make sense, from the Courier & Press of Evansville: Southern Indiana lawmakers with districts along the Ohio River are planning a new legislative caucus to represent the region’s distinct interests and push for infrastructure funding and other projects.


Like nobody saw that coming: You take a bridge that normally handles 90,00 cars a day out of service, and the morning commute becomes a nightmare.


I almost envy people in the Wheeling area this fall. Today, they got to see an old bridge over the Ohio River demolished by explosives. And there could be two more in the area before the end of this year. The best thing about such demolitions is the sight. First you see the puffs of smoke, then you hear the blast and feel the shock wave.

Here's some news footage from WTRF-TV in Wheeling.

Disclosure: WRTF is owned by the company that I work for, but I'm linking to its video because it was the only one that I found.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Three weeks to six months

The Sherman Minton Bridge connecting Louisville, Ky., and New Albany, Ind., will be closed three weeks for inspection  and could be closed up to six months for repairs. According to the AP, the bridge carries about 89,000 vehicles a day. Losing it for three weeks minimum has to hurt.

Back in 1977, the Silver Memorial Bridge up in my part of the river was closed for three or four months when cracks were discovered in its structural steel. Lucky for the locals, we had free ferry service for use while the bridge was closed.

Three boats, downbound on a Sunday afternoon

The Omar ...

The Transporter ...

And the Miss Doris ...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

News about three bridges... and some misremembered poetry

It looks like President Obama has injected the aging, inadequate Brent Spence bridge over the Ohio River between Cincinnati and northern Kentucky into the jobs/stimulus debate. Here's how The Associated Press reported it.


Meanwhile, the Louisville area has billion-dollar needs of its own, and another problem came up this week.


And how I wish I could be in the Wheeling area Monday when the old bridge at Bridgeport, Ohio, goes into the river.

My last year of college, I had an English class that used a textbook with a poem about that area. I can't remember it exactly, but it went something like this:

For the Ohio River at Wheeling has two shores.
One in heaven
And the other in Bridgeport, Ohio.
And no one would die, only to find beyond death
Bridgeport, Ohio.

I guess somebody really didn't like Bridgeport, Ohio.

Here's one version of the poem that I found online. It's different from what I remembered from those decades ago. Figures.

Friday, September 9, 2011

M/V Charleston, 4 of 4

The last batch of photos from the M/V Charleston open house this past weekend ...

When the deckhands walked out wearing their life vests and gloves, we knew the Charleston was about to leave. The guy standing in the doorway is the engineer, and the guy in the black shirt on the left is Captain Jimmy.

Before the Charleston could get back to making money towing barges, it had to return the barge that generates steam to power the old steamboat whistles had to return to port.

It was a great open house, and the crew was extremely hospitable and great hosts. See you next year.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

M/V Charleston, 3 of 4

Some leftover photos from our tour of the Charleston:

The view from the stern. The door opens to the dining area and the galley. This was the first boat I had toured where the galley was at the rear.

The view from the back door of the pilothouse.

The pantry.

And the name of the Charleston on the port towing knee.

Tomorrow: Back to work.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Marathon on the Kanawha

I've been working in downtown Charleston, W.Va., since the first of the year. The building we're in is on the banks of the Kanawha River, and my desk happens to be by a window. Today I was on a different floor and saw a boat coming up the Kanawha. I got a closer look at it and ran up two flights of stairs, grabbed a company camera and told the boss that an Ohio River boat was about to deliver two barges of petroleum products to the terminal across the river.

The boat was the Marathon of Marathon Petroleum Co. Usually Marathon uses a smaller boat to deliver barges to the Charleston terminal, but today I wasn't complaining.

The camera I used was a Nikon Coolpix point-and-shoot. I had to be careful going from what I assume was optical zoom to digital zoom. But several of the pictures turned out okay anyway. And here they are.

Remember, photos are my property and are not to be printed, downloaded, copied or otherwise used without my permission.

By the way, I've known my supervisor since 1999, and she knows my love of the river.

We're scheduled to move into a new building around the first of March. It's a couple of blocks away from the Kanawha, and I won't have a window view of traffic going by. I'll probably miss the place.

M/V Charleston, 2 of 4

Here are some interior shots of the 64-year-old towboat Charleston, which was available for open house and public tours this past weekend at Point Pleasant, W.Va.

First, the pilothouse, where Captain Jimmy works.

The view out the back door of the pilothouse.

The engines and the engine room.

The galley.

 A commendation from the Coast Guard.

And my 11-year-old, almost 12-year-old son Adam dreaming of piloting one of these vessels someday.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

River's rising

The Ohio River bank is going to be a bit of a nasty place for photographers and fishermen the next few days. It's been raining steadily here in the Huntington area since Sunday morning. The official forecast has the river rising another seven feet here by Friday, when it should start dropping.

The rise is only supposed to be two feet at Marietta for the sternwheel festival there this coming weekend. Cincinnati could get eight feet between now and Saturday. Louisville's forecast is a four-foot rise.

Locally, it must water coming out of the Kanawha.

Line tossing

When the guys who work on the M/V Charleston learned Adam wants to be a pilot someday, they told him about how long he had to be a deckhand before he could be considered for a pilot's job. And to be a deckhand, he has to learn to throw a line.

So Anthony Pettry decided to give Adam a couple of line tossing lessons. He got a short line with the loop in it and took Adam to the head of the boat. He told Adam to hold the loop just so, and to draw some slack and toss it underhanded.

It took Adam a few tries, and he aimed at the button and hit it before he got the timberhead twice in a row.

Later in the day, Pettry participated in the annual line tossing contest. It went to sudden death overtime, with Pettry up against the captain of his boat. And the winner was ....

Anthony Pettry. So Adam got his first line tossing lesson from a champion line tosser. How cool is that?