Saturday, October 19, 2013

Another view of Hannibal

If you'd like to see another view of the Hannibal Locks and Dam, check out this photo by Flickr user Lewie Osborne.

If anyone can give me directions on getting to this spot, or a similar spot overlooking the Simon Kenton Bridge (the old one) at Maysville KY or the Sciotoville (OH) railroad bridge, I will gladly accept them and give you a shoutout when I post the pictures.

Politics, media, the shutdown and the Ohio River

So the federal government shutdown is over. For now. We survived, somehow. It made us forget about the fierce urgent issues that must be addressed immediately for the survival of the republic and the free world. Gun control, immigration ... stuff like that. I guess we'll wait until the shutdown is dissected on the Sunday morning news shows before my peers in the national media decide what issue will be the next to drive us apart as we choose sides and identify heroes and villians.

But with the shutdown's end comes some news about ... the Ohio River, of all things. For me, it started with this basic news release that I read and thought, I'll have to put that on the blog this weekend. Here it is, from the Waterways Council Inc.

Arlington, VA – The passage of last night’s Continuing Resolution to fund the Federal government and raise the debt ceiling contained a provision to raise the 902(b) cap on the amount that can be spent on the Olmsted Project in Illinois to $2.9 billion from the current $1.56 billion.  The measure does not appropriate funds, but allows work on the critically important project to continue.   The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers informed the Inland Waterways Users Board in August that the Olmsted project would be shuttered in November 2013 and would displace 400 workers if Congress did not act the raise the cap. 

In response to the Corps’ announcement, the Senate-passed Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill, the House Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA) bill, and the FY 2014 Energy & Water Appropriations bill all contain provisions to raise the 902(b) cap but will not become law before the project would have shut down in November. 

If Olmsted were to have shut down, according to the Corps, it would have cost $40 million to restart the project, and of course, needlessly delay its delivery. 

“To be clear, no money has been expended in this action by Congress.  It simply raises the ceiling on the cost of project that was set in 1986 to allow work to continue in 2013 and beyond,”   said Michael J. Toohey, President/CEO, Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) “This important project in Illinois has a 7.4 to 1 cost-benefit ratio as determined by the Corps of Engineers’ Chief’s Report approved by Congress, and is estimated to return more than $410 million annually in transportation cost savings and benefits when it is completed,” he continued.  
But there's always a story behind the story. Within hours, I saw this on the Bloomberg BusinessWeek website.

Don’t tell American Electric Power (AEP:US) Co. that a part of the U.S. budget agreement allowing an Ohio River lock reconstruction project to continue is a sweetheart deal for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.  

Other news folks picked up the Bloomberg story and ran it.

And today I found this version:

The last-minute addition to the fiscal deal this week of a $1.2 billion boost in the spending cap for an embattled waterway project in the home state of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell kicked up a political storm, but the "Kentucky Kickback" has jittery inland-shipping interests on the busy Ohio River breathing a sigh of relief.

There are others. There will be more. Doing my own Olmstead story is on my Ohio River bucket list, which gets longer every week.