Saturday, June 25, 2016

Accidentally deleted

I just accidentally deleted the post about the Cabell County Sheriff's Department getting a new boat for river patrols and rescue operations.

Sorry about that.

Catching up. Again.

Internet problems, things that happen in life and a bunch of other stuff have kept me away for a few days. Catching up will occur sometime next week. Meanwhile, here are a few things I've seen during my recent visits to the river.

Yesterday morning between rain showers I was at the riverfront here in Huntington WV when I saw this. It reminded me of the roadside memorials that are so common here in West Virginia.

A little later, there was this one of the James Paul Ayers passing Huntington.

Earlier in the week, I had to make a quick trip to Point Pleasant WV. This is how the sun lit up the color of the CSX railroad bridge over the Kanawha River right above its mouth.

And I still have to write up some stuff and process a few more photos from the Meldahl hydropower plant dedication from a few weeks ago. I will catch up with life someday.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

M/V Detroit at a favorite spot

People driving along WV Route 2 on Sunday probably wondered why a guy was standing on the other side of the guardrail in a place where the terrain is steep. It's because it's a decent place to get boat photos, that's why.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Fill 'er up

It's the natural course of things that if you have a body of water with little current, it's going to fill in with silt in some places. Such is the course of events at Harris Riverfront Park here at Huntington WV.

The other day I was in town to do an interview for an article in The State Journal. As I tend to do, I went down to the park to see if anything was happening on the river. Off to my left while standing at the boat ramp I saw what looked like mud sticking out of the water where pleasure boats are supposed to tie up. No, I thought, that's just small pieces of drift gathering no. On third thought, no, that's mud.

Indeed it was. Last fall some people on a boat told me they could not tie up at the upper end of the park because it had filled in. About an hour before that, I had noticed the water there was unusually shallow. A few years ago, I saw a Coast Guard buoy tender trying to tie at this spot for the night. There were guys on the side of the boat with poles to see if the water was deep enough. The next year when they were up there, they tied up farther down, at a newer area for large boats.

Here you can see the kevels or H-bits or whatever these things are called for you to tie up to if the water is deep enough.

And this being the middle part of the Ohio River, you can't have dirt sticking out of water without a beverage container on it.

At this part of the park, the boat ramp immediately upstream sticks out into the river, creating an area of low current, allowing the river to drop its sediment load here. Also, this part of the park is under water several times a year. When it's cleaned, it's often with people using fire hoses who blast the sediment back into the river.

Later in the morning, I asked someone about the siltation here and he said that should be taken care of when Superior Marine of South Point OH and the city of Huntington embark on their park redevelopment project. Such plans have yet to be announced, but it makes sense that you would not spend a lot of money on dredging now if someone else is going to do it again soon.

The thing is, Harris Riverfront Park opened in the early 1980s. It was the prototype for several parks in this area. I wonder how many of them have or will have similar problems, where you want a place for pleasure boats to visit but you don't have the money to keep the river bottom from rising.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Coal traffic, May 2016

Unless you live near the Racine Locks and Dam, you saw less coal moving on the Ohio River last month than you did in May 2015. Here are some numbers for your perusal.

Except for percentages, all numbers are thousands of tons.

Locks and Dam May 2014 May 2015 May 2016 Change 2015-16 Percent change, 2015-16 Percent change, 2014-16
LD 53 900.73 1,027.71 588.10 -439.61 -43% -35%
LD 52 2038.13 1,598.67 1,059.40 -539.27 -34% -48%
Smithland 2246.22 2,052.91 1,365.00 -687.91 -34% -39%
JTMyers 2023.33 1,749.56 1,225.05 -524.51 -30% -39%
Newburgh 3157.83 2,774.24 2,242.25 -531.99 -19% -29%
Cannelton 2766.2 2,393.70 1,798.20 -595.50 -25% -35%
McAlpine 2846.5 2,371.15 1,828.60 -542.55 -23% -36%
Markland 1625.3 1,415.54 874.00 -541.54 -38% -46%
Meldahl 1770.6 1,473.92 1,114.96 -358.96 -24% -37%
Greenup 1511.87 1,210.04 1,275.49 65.45 5% -16%
RCByrd 1650.18 1,569.05 1,083.86 -485.19 -31% -34%
Racine 2407.16 2,647.45 2,650.90 3.45 0% 10%
Belleville 2353.72 2,485.48 2,282.53 -202.95 -8% -3%
Willow Island 2270.87 2,423.00 2,240.03 -182.97 -8% -1%
Hannibal 2506.93 2,627.78 2,378.21 -249.57 -9% -5%
Pike Island 1752.59 1,861.93 1,467.05 -394.88 -21% -16%
New Cumberland 1819.2 1,809.50 1,464.25 -345.25 -19% -20%
Montgomery 1116.68 1,379.63 922.19 -457.44 -33% -17%
Dashields 1124.44 1,505.53 853.51 -652.02 -43% -24%
Emsworth 1144.62 1,476.10 850.01 -626.09 -42% -26%

Monday, June 13, 2016

Algae action, 2016

This morning I crossed the Ohio River a couple of times and noticed a greenish tint to it. I guess that means the blue-green algae are growing again, as they usually do at this time of year.

Ohio is taking steps to cut back on algae blooms in Lake Erie, although last summer's bloom on the Ohio was also noted in this Wall Street Journal article.

The thing about this that puzzles me is how last year's Ohio River bloom started. The first I heard of it was in the Steubenville area, and from there it spread downriver. Most news articles I read about algae blooms attribute them to nitrogen fertilizer, but I don't think there's a lot of agriculture in the Steubenville area. But I could be wrong about all this. If so, someone please correct me.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A fifth ferry for the Ohio River?

One is being proposed to run between Rising Sun, Indiana, and Rabbit Hash, Kentucky. According to this article, people in Indiana want it but people in Kentucky don't.

The four ferries operating on the Ohio are at Cave-In-Rock, Illinois (free service provided jointly by Illinois and Kentucky), Cincinnati (private operator), Augusta, Kentucky (subsidized by Kentucky) and Sistersville, West Virginia (public operator).

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A book on river algae

If I had $30 to spare, I might purchase a chapter in a book called "River Algae." The specific chapter is "Biogeography of River Algae" by Morgan L. Vis, professor and department chair of the Department of Environment and Plant Biology at Ohio University. Given what happened last summer on the Ohio, reading up on river algae in general might be interesting if I could follow the scholarly text here.

The entire book looks interesting, even if it is $99 for the ebook and $129 for the printed version, both of which are out of my price range right now.

After the overview comes a 30-page chapter on cyanobacteria, the type that caused last summer's bloom. If you read the excerpt, you see that these algae are responsible for most of the oxygen and nitrogen in the Earth's atmosphere. I guess I could cruise on over to Wikipedia for some of this information, but getting it from a scholarly book such as this feels better.

From the official description of the book:

The content is focused on benthic communities showing how they play an in important role in the river ecosystems. Provides also information on taxonomy of river-inhabiting algal groups, including phylogeny, distribution, collection, preservation and description of the most representative genera of algae in river benthic algal communities.  

The book also approaches the ecology of river algae not to mention the ecological factors influencing abundance, distribution and diversity of river benthic algal communities and their use as bio-indicators, providing an up-to-date information on taxonomy, ecology, methodology and uses, and a great source of research to everyone interested in freshwater algae, limnology, water quality assessment and biodiversity in river ecosystems.

I didn't mean to write so much on a technical book on algae, but some things just get me carried away.

Shell says it will build ethane cracker near Pittsburgh

This is big.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Shell Chemicals Appalachia’s long-awaited decision on a multibillion-dollar ethane cracker arrived early this morning and it’s a go. The company plans to build the petrochemical complex on site of the former Horsehead zinc smelter in Potter and Center townships, Beaver County.

The site is along the Ohio River.

Government officials in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia have wooed such developments from petrochemical companies. Of the three, it looks like West Virginia will be the odd man out.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Black vultures at Maysville, KY

(Taking a break from two number-intensive projects and a word-heavy one)

Back on June 2, when I went down to the Meldahl Locks and Dam for the power plant dedication ceremony and tour, I went through part of Maysville, KY, before heading down KY Route 8. Right below Maysville is the H.L. Spurlock Station power plant, and on the other side of the road from the power plant were these big black birds. They were black vultures, the kind rarely seen up here around Mile 310 of the Ohio River, although I have seen a live one and a dead juvenile.

Black vultures are different from the buzzards we normally see in my part of the Ohio Valley, which are turkey vultures. Black vultures are smaller and have smaller beaks. They lack the turkey vulture’s acute sense of smell, and unlike turkey vultures they will attack and kill small animals and even newborn livestock.

So why were these things hanging around the Spurlock power plant by the dozen? Apparently to catch the thermals from the smokestack and the cooling towers, if there are any. Or from all the coal, asphalt and concrete on the site, which would warm up before the vegetation around it. Here is part of the abstract from a scholarly article in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology, published by the Wilson Ornithological Society. (Link:

“(V)ultures use artificial thermals as a way to gain elevation during flight. The largest number of vultures was observed in (thermal power plants) near feeding sites and roosting areas. We recorded the largest concentration of vultures in the late afternoon. We observed an interaction effect between site and time, where (thermal power plants) near roost sites had more vultures early morning and late afternoon, while (thermal power plants) near feeding sites had more vultures at mid-day. Our results show that vultures intensively use (thermal power plants) to aid their flight, and this behavior is used mainly at those times under the lowest natural thermals and when the vultures are moving from feeding sites to roosts in the late afternoon.”

The early morning air was still a bit chill from overnight rain when I drove past, so these birds may have been waiting for a good time to get airborne.

I had to shoot these photos from my car window. I didn't know if black vultures were as shy around people as turkey vultures are, so I kept my distance.

I didn’t see any turkey vultures around this power plant. It could be they roost in a different spot, or they could have been scared away by the aggressive behavior of black vultures. There are two other coal-fired power plants along the Ohio River with a short distance of Maysville, but I did not see any vultures on the ground or in the air when I drove by them. Likewise I have not seen any around the coal- or gas-fired plants in the area where I live.

Why these birds congregate at this particular spot I just don’t know. But it does give a person reason to check out the site again when they’re in the Maysville area. That is, if a person is not repulsed by vultures but instead finds them interesting for whatever reason.

Friday, June 3, 2016

A common problem

Here's a question for you: A lot of state roads along the Ohio River sustain damage from constant slipping and sliding. Do you keep repairing the road, or do you move it?

Indiana is considering relocating part of Route 156 in the Rising Sun area.

A dozen years or so ago, West Virginia had the same problem with Route 2 South of Point Pleasant. It was hill, railroad track, Route 2 and river. There was no place to relocate the road to, so after years of filling in slips, it decided to stabilize the river bank.

There was a state road in Ohio -- I think it was Route 124 in Meigs County, although it could have been in Athens County or Washington County -- that Ohio eventually gave up on. The road wasn't a main artery, so the state just closed it because it wasn't worth fixing anymore.

News coverage of Meldahl hydro dedication

I'm still getting stuff together for two, three or four entries on the new hydroelectric plant at the Meldahl Locks and Dam. For more immediate coverage, here is an article from The Journal-News of Hamilton, Ohio, and here is one from The Ledger Independent of Maysville, Ky.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A new hydroelectric plant

For a brief time today I got to go inside the largest hydroelectric power plant on the Ohio River.

More later as I go through pictures and stuff.

For a guy like me, it was a good day.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Breakfast surprise

Two or three times a week I find myself driving on WV Route 2 along the Ohio River north of Huntington about an hour or so before rush hour begins. Today the river was calm and reflective, so I figured I had a shot at getting a photo of a certain bridge reflecting in the mirror-like surface of the water.

Before I got to the bridge, I saw the AEP Mariner under it, so I knew my hoped-for photo was not happening today. As I got to the park under the bridge, I noticed the Mariner was pushing only three coal loads, and it was moving pretty slowly. It was so slow, the propellers were kicking up hardly any turbulence. Plus the boat was sticking pretty close to the Ohio shore for some reason.

Here's what it looked like, with me having to look toward the sun in the east to get this.

But the morning was not a total disappointment. There were about two dozen Canada geese breakfasting on underwater vegetation -- adults, adolescents and elementary age equivalents.

Yeah, that looks like me and my offspring when we all gather for a meal.