Sunday, August 30, 2015

Shallow water at Riverfront Park

About 8 a.m. yesterday morning I was kneeling down by the Ohio River at Harris Riverfront Park here at Huntington, W.Va. The river was still and calm. The spot where I knelt was a few yards above where the Mississippi Queen docked when it first visited Huntington 30 years ago this month. I was kneeling to get a look down into the Ohio. This is a place where my granddaughter and I often walk. I try to keep her away from the edge of the concrete walking area along the river because she might fall in and find herself in water way over her head.

Was I ever wrong about that.

As I stared into the water, I was amazed at how shallow it was. There was maybe 18 to 24 inches of water there at normal pool that morning. A little farther up the river, toward the boat launch ramp, the water got shallower. The shallow water extended as far out as the transparency or translucency of the water would let me see.

I had heard from people at the Huntington District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that this part of the park had problems with sedimentation, but I didn't know they were this bad. This also explains why a few years ago, when I saw a Coast Guard buoy tender tie up at the park overnight, that there were guys on the head and the stern of the boat with poles measuring the water's depth.

Staring down into the water, I thought I saw where mussels or some other marine life lived. I couldn't see them, but there were streams of little bubbles that rose from the mud and popped when they reached the surface. There were also some little green floaters on the water, possibly the blue green algae that is causing problems a couple of hundred miles upriver in the Steubenville, Ohio, area. It reminded me of my tenth-grade biology class in high school. One of the few things I remember from that class, other than the day I managed to cheat my way to perfect score on the test in full view of y classmates but not my teacher, was that the green stuff we say in creeks back up in the hollers of southern Ohio was an algae called spirogyra, even if our elders referred to it as frog (you know).

Oh, after the test I told the teacher what I had done. He commended me on my ingenuity.

Other than the cost-benefit ratio, I suppose there's no rush to dredge the shallow water along the park wall. For all I know, the mud there could be home to the pink pearly mucket mussel, an endangered species that can stop a variety of human works in the river.

Should someone fall into the river, the question now probably would be how soft the mud is. So the next task for the inquiring mind is to take a long stick and poke the mud. If I do, I'll let you know what happened.

Locking through Olmstead

This is another of those I-wish-I-could-be-there-to-see-it occasions.

The Olmstead Locks and Dam, which has been under construction since -- I don't know, but it's been a long, long time -- will begin passing traffic today through the landward lock chamber because of dam construction activities out in the channel.

Combined with traffic restrictions at Locks and Dam 53 because of work on that dam, it could be slow going on the lower Ohio for a while.

Here is the pertinent information, lifted from Navigation Notice 2015-035, issued by the Louisville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on August 14.

Lock 53 is scheduled to have wicket repair activities and a lane restriction in effect Tuesday 25 Aug 2015. River traffic will be restricted to a 400’ wide channel on the Illinois side of the center pier (please see attached detail drawing). This restriction will be in effect until modified by future navigation notice dependent on repair progress.  The Olmsted project is scheduled to begin locking operations on 30 August 2015.  The channel will be closed due to ongoing construction activities; however river traffic will be diverted to the landside chamber to pass the project site.

Following that are instructions for commercial traffic between miles 953 and 968.

I haven't heard of any traffic using Olmstead up until now, so I'm wondering if this will be as big a deal as what happened when the M/V Bob Benter became the first boat to use the Greenup Locks and Dam way back when.

If you want background on why it's taken so long to build Olmstead, which has been under construction since the first part of Bill Clinton's presidency, check out this article.