Wednesday, September 30, 2015

M/V Findlay christening article is up

It's on the Waterways Journal web site.

That means I'll be posting photos from the event soon, probably this weekend.

The photo with the article isn't mine. The way the boat was docked at the ceremony, there was no way to get a good picture of it in the river. But the photos I post will include a few of the Findlay.

Like this one.

And one like this.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

NASA and algae \

The algae bloom is diminishing upriver, but it's still causing problems in the Cincinnati area and below. Now NASA is using the algae growth to test equipment that may someday make detecting such problems easier.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

More stuff you might have missed

The Delta Queen has a new home port. It's on the Mississippi.

And American Commercial Line has gone back to its former name, American Commercial Barge Line.

News roundup and more, 9/24/2015

I'm a fastball hitter. Life his figured that out and thrown me a lot of curves lately. So let's get some housekeeping done before I take some time off to get things straightened out.

First, the Waterways Journal says it's about to publish my story and/or photos from the christening of the M/V Findlay earlier this month. When I get my copy in the mail, I'll post some pictures.

Now on to the news and more:

I was down at the river this morning shortly after sunrise. The air was cool, and there were still strands of the blue-green algae hugging the shore. I don't know what it was like farther out in the channel. According to this report, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management is warning about recreational contact of river water as far down as the Cannelton Locks and Dam.

There has been Facebook chatter about a huge backup at Locks and Dam 52 down at Paducah. The Wall Street Journal did a piece about it. Corn growers say the shutdown of the main lock at 52 couldn't have come at a worse time.

And it looks like a new bridge in the Steubenville, Ohio, area could be under construction by the end of next year.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Three recent visitors

I saw three boats these past two days. One is a frequent visitor to this area. The other two, I can't say. I've seen them, but not often.

First, the frequent visitor. It was the M/V Transporter.

As the boat passed I wondered how big the pilot's blind spot was.

Shortly after the Transporter disappeared around the bend, I saw some barges headed my way. When the boat came into view, I thought it looked like a Crounse pilothouse but with a red roof, so it had to be a Marquette boat.

And it was. The M/V Blessed Sacrament, to be precise.

The next day, this big one came down the river pushing several barges of benzene. It was the M/V City of Vicksburg, which I had seen in the area earlier this summer but not in a spot where I could stop the car and get a picture.

As the boat approached, I was puzzled by something. It almost looked a Dravo Viking, but the proportions were wrong. When I studied the pilothouse, it was almost certainly a St. Louis Ship production. But in profile, it looked too much like something Jeffboat would build.

So when I got home, I looked it up. The City of Vicksburg was built by St. Louis Ship and launched in 1981, or about two years before the boatbuilding work there ended.

Too late, I saw this guy, who stopped hosing off the deck before I could aim my camera at him.

And that explains part of my thought process when a boat goes by.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

CSX expects coal doldrums to continue

This is not directly river-related, but it touches on something important to the most carried commodity on the Ohio.

CSX says its market for hauling coal by rail will continue to be weak through this year. More here.

Big problem at Hannibal hydro plant

The hydroelectric plant at the Hannibal Locks and Dam has some serious mechanical problems. One of the two generating units has been shut down since July of last year, and it might not be back on line until this time next year.

For details, check out this story I wrote for The State Journal.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Save the Ironton-Russell Bridge?

It opened to traffic in 1922. It was the second highway bridge on the Ohio River between Wheeling and Cincinnati. (The first was demolished around 1980). And its replacement could be open to traffic as early as late 2016.

The Ironton-Russell Bridge has had its share of problems. It closes in winter when the temperature drops below a certain point. Falcons nest on its structure, so it is closed to pedestrians in hatching season. My son refuses to cross it because at one time it ranked a 2 on a scale of 100 for adequacy. The last I checked, it has since been upgraded to a 7.

The old bridge is a relic of a former era of engineering and materials science. Some younger bridges of its time have been rehabilitated and are still in use. The Ben Williamson Memorial Bridge, a few miles upstream at Ashland KY, is one example. But the Ironton-Russell Bridge was too far gone to rehab. At a certain point, you have to buy a new car. You can keep the old one running, but you're just waiting for a catastrophic failure, and you can't have that with a bridge.

But there's a petition effort to keep the old bridge open as a pedestrian crossing that would continue to link downtown Ironton OH with downtown Russell KY. As with any such effort nowadays, there's also a Facebook page.

If the contract to build the new bridge is similar to others that I have covered, the builder probably is responsible for demolishing the old bridge, and he gets to sell the scrap metal. Any effort to save the old bridge would have to work around this.

We probably all know several old bridges that people have wanted to save. They can't all be preserved, and it's probably not safe to do so. A lot of those old bridges would be a personal injury or accidental death lawsuit waiting to happen.

Don't ask me whether this bridge should be saved. I would like to see it kept alive, but don't ask me to decide whether it would be worth the cost and trouble. Surely someone in the Ironton or Russell communities is working on a plan to preserve the legacy of this bridge.

That assumes people like their old bridge. When Huntington received a new bridge in 1994, a few people wanted to preserve the old one for historical reasons. But most people were tired of the old bridge and the problems it caused, and they were glad to see it go.

Which reminds me of a tragic but comic story about the demolition of that old bridge, but that has to wait for another day.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

M/V City of Pittsburgh in the morning fog

Harris Riverfront Park in downtown Huntington WV seems to be a popular place for towboats to do crew changes. I've seen several there this summer.

This morning, while the sun was still in its immediate post-dawn golden hour and fog clung to the Ohio River, I saw the M/V City of Pittsburgh here. I got lots of pictures, with most of them being duplicates because I was testing various camera settings to see what worked best.

I like it when towboats are so close you can smell them. They have a distinctive odor that sometimes you have to be on board to appreciate, but this time a boat was close enough to shore that you could tell you were in the presence of an Ohio River commercial towing vessel.

They say the sense of smell is the strongest one for stirring up memories or creating emotional bonds.When Adam was a baby with barely any hair and still in a high chair, I would walk by just so I could get a deep inhaling of his scalp. And a few years ago I stood along Ohio 7 where my father had had his farm. A Hereford was down over the hill, and I could smell a pile of manure from beef cattle. It wasn't so bad. Dairy cattle manure I can live without, but beef manure can have a sweet, almost likeable, smell.

Back to the topic: Sometimes boats have to wait at the riverfront for a while before the crew change comes. Thus, I left to run to the post office. When I returned, the yawl or whatever they call the smaller boat with the outboard engine was being lifted out of the water. Not having seen anything, I can't say for sure a crew change happened. What I did notice was that the City of Pittsburgh left before a Crounse boat coming up the river could overtake it. So I went to a convenience store for an errand. I had this thought in my head that maybe the Crounse boat was having a crew change, also. When I got back, a man and a woman were in a yawl leaving the boat ramp, and a guy in a white van with the Crounse name and logo was leaving, too.

If I ever get around to writing that book, don't be surprised if a couple of photos from this morning are in it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The river is still green

I went up on the bridge today to look at algae, and it's still there. It's worst along the bank, but I saw several long strands out toward the middle of the channel, too. I waited for a while for a towboat to come stir the water up so I could get an idea how deep it was, but the river was pretty quiet today as far as traffic went.

It looks like the weather will continue to be warm and dry for the next few days, so we might see the river turn a bright green again.

Boat and bridges

Back in 1980, a towboat pilot asked me (rhetorically, I assume) why highway people always build bridges in river bends.

Because that's where the people and cars are?

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Ohio River is still green

Despite yesterday's steady rain and cooler temperatures, the algae bloom in the Ohio River in my area is still there, although not as visible as it was two days ago. On Wednesday, the afternoon soon gave the river a bright green sheen. Today the river was still green, particularly in the still water close to the shore, but it wasn't as bright as it was two days ago.

Here are a couple of photos I got Sunday. The first one is the result of my skipping a small flat rock in an area thick with the algae.

I was alone, otherwise I could have gotten a photo of the green water splashing upward when the rock first hit the water. Seriously, it was all green.

This one was taken on the upper approach wall of old Lock and Dam 27.

The main stem of the Ohio is on the left of the photo. On the left is an area of backwater where the river comes down and butts up against the shore and the wall. Close to the wall is an area of clear water. You can't see it well here, but a current is flowing along the wall from left to right. To the right out of the picture frame are a series of little whirlpools where the backwater meets the river current.

As I watched this small current move around the guide wall and push the algae out of the way, I had to think that the river current was pushing water downstream. Some of it accumulated where it couldn't go any farther until it backed up along the guidewall.

The white thing in the upper left corner is the reflection of a cloud on the river surface.

Let's see how the river looks tomorrow. Some folks will be watching football. I'll be looking for algae. Such is life.

Bridge documentary and contest

This came in an e-mail today from the Milton-Madison Bridge Project.

"Milton-Madison Bridge: History on the Ohio" airs tonight on KET2 at 11:30 ET. The 30-minute documentary chronicles the innovative engineering solution to replace the aging bridge over the Ohio River connecting Madison, Indiana with Milton, Kentucky, leading to a dramatic and historic event - the longest bridge slide ever in North America.

The top part of the message said this:

Today (September 11) is the last day for the public to vote for the Milton-Madison Bridge Project in a national competition for the best transportation project.

Voting for the People’s Choice Award in the America’s Transportation Awards competition is taking place online. To vote, simply go to Each person may cast up to 10 ballots. The winning project will recieve a $10,000 donaton to a charity or scholarship fund. Get your votes in now! 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Livin' good on algae

Not everyone has a problem with the algae bloom in the Ohio River.

From what I understand of the weather forecast, cooler and wetter weather in midweek should cut back in the algae growth.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Annie on the Ohio

There's a 53-foot, two-deck boat called the Annie on the Ohio River. Its owners are from Florence, Ala., and their plan is to go to Pittsburgh and back down again. I talked with them last week and got some photos. You can read the story here.

One thing they said that wasn't in the story is that they find the Ohio more interesting than the Tennessee. The Ohio, at least above the lower part of the river, has more people on it, meaning more towns and more places to visit. They like the friendly and helpful people they meet, of course.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Ohio River algae bloom, day whatever

The toxic algae bloom in the Ohio River stretches from Wheeling to Louisville now. I was in the Cincinnati area yesterday, but I didn't see much algae near the shore where I was. The river had the bright green tint on the surface, but along the shore where I was, not so much. I will have to say that I was only along a limited part of the shore while there.

While I was out and about this morning, I stopped at the boat ramp at the mouth of the Guyandotte River to see what was there. If nothing else, the algae helps to camouflage the Mountain Dew bottles in the river.

And I saw some construction workers and huge pipes taking up nearly the entire parking lot. The water company says it's not concerned about the safety of the water supply with all that algae in the water, but someone is spending a lot of money securing a second source.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A surprise visitor

Marathon Petroleum christened the M/V Findlay in Newport, Ky., across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, today. I was there to write about it, and I did my good deed for the week.

After the ceremony, people gathered in a dining room of BB Riverboats for what looked like a delicious buffet. One of us, however, was paid to be there to get pictures of people at the events surrounding the christening, so he had to forego the buffet so he could get as many snaps as he could in hopes of making a better sale.

I walked outside to get away from everything for a few minutes. I looked up the river and saw a boat coming down toward us. I followed its movements for a few moments, then I realized it was a Marathon boat that was similar to the Findlay. I went inside to ask David Earl, manager of operations for MPC's marine transportation (I hope I got that right), if that was part of the event, as it was too good of a coincidence to be one. No, he assured me, it was a coincidence.

So we and some others went out to see the boat coming down, and people told me it was the M/V Canton. The Marathon folks told their still and video photographers to get some shots, so they did. And so did I.

Several people came outside to see the Canton pass Great American Ball Park and the Findlay. Some folks were joking that the Canton's pilot may have been going so slow down the river because he didn't want to intrude on the ceremony, but it looked like he sped up as he got closer to the Findlay.

I'll have more on the christening itself later, after the article runs.

This was the second time this summer that I had made a trip to the Cincinnati area for a boat christening. Both times I went to this spot to see boats going through the bridges that pilots keep griping about. And this was the only boat with barges that I actually saw passing downtown in that time.

As a footnote, this was also the first time in a long time that Adam did not go with me to a christening or an open house. He had to go to school instead. I missed him. I usually get a picture of him in the pilothouse holding the steering levers, or as we call it, between the sticks. I tried getting a selfie of me doing that to carry on the tradition, but it wasn't the same.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Green river

The Ohio River at Huntington had a strong green tint today thanks to the algae bloom that has moved downriver. I saw some algae in the water this past weekend, but the little guys have been in overdrive reproductive mode lately.

This kind of algae thrives in still water. The river current and volume are low because there hasn't been a lot of rain in the past few weeks after an abnormally wet June and early July. The forecast for Huntington shows a small chance of rain in the next seven days, so it will be interesting to see what happens with the algae growth in that time.