Tuesday, February 28, 2017

GAO studies problems at the Olmsted Locks and Dam

It's raining here in Cabell County, W.Va., today, which means my internet service is cutting in and out. Let's see if it stays on long enough to post this.

The Waterways Journal has an article this week about a Government Accountability Office report on the Olmsted Locks and Dam, mainly about how it got so far behind schedule and over budget. Basically, the GAO report says what's been said many times before, that the "in-the-wet" method of building the dam, in which parts were build on shore and floated into place and submerged, was far more expensive and time-consuming than the traditional method of building dams in the dry by using cofferdams.

I've downloaded the whole report. Sometime this week when I can read through it carefully, I'll have a followup entry. Skimming through it, I was reminded of a dialogue in the Michael Crichton novel "The Lost World", his sequel to "Jurassic Park". If all you know of "The Lost World" is the movie that came out about 20 years ago, you need to read the book. Most of the characters are different, and it tackles the topic of mass extinctions.

More later.

Monday, February 27, 2017

M/V Vernon M. Weiland

This boat passed Huntington yesterday evening just before the sun set.

As this boat went around the bend and out of sight, I saw another one coming down the river about three miles upstream. I would have stayed around to shoot it but (a) I had to be somewhere to pick someone up, and (b) in the half hour the boat would take to reach me, darkness would be falling. So I left.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

More fun with black and white

I found this picture from Sept. 7, 2015, and decided to see how it would look in black and white.

This is the Ohio side of the Gallipolis Locks and Dam, now formally known as the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

CNN discovers Killen, Stuart and the town of Machester, Ohio

CNN sent a reporter to Manchester, Ohio, a struggling community that sits between the Killen and Stuart power plants, to see what the mood is.

It's a decent story, even if it uses the word "nestled" to begin the second paragraph. I used to work with a guy whose pet peeve was overuse of that word to describe a small town or an isolated community.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Sunset at Harris Riverfront Park

Seen this 80-degree evening in late February as dozens of people enjoyed a Friday by the Ohio River.

This is a popular place in the Huntington, W.Va., area to get sunset pictures, by the way.

Power plant ownership changes

American Electric Power and Dynegy have agreed to trade their ownership positions in two power plants, including the Zimmer plant along the Ohio River near Cincinnati.

Dynegy will take AEP's stake in Zimmer while AEP will take Dynegy's ownership share in a plant at Conesville, Ohio.

This is another step in AEP's effort to divest itself its generating assets in Ohio, especially coal-fired ones. FirstEnergy, which owns the Pleasants Power Station at Willow Island, W.Va., is. While that plant is in West Virginia, it supplies power to a FirstEnergy subsidiary in Ohio. FirstEnergy is trying to move that plant to its West Virginia operations.

From the AEP news release:

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Feb. 23, 2017 – American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) today signed agreements to sell AEP’s 330-megawatt (MW) share of the Zimmer Plant to Dynegy and to purchase Dynegy’s 312-MW share of Conesville Plant. AEP and Dynegy co-own both plants.  
“AEP’s long-term strategy has been to become a fully regulated, premium energy company focused on investments in infrastructure and energy innovations that benefit our customers. These transactions simplify the ownership structures for two of our remaining competitive generation assets as we continue the strategic evaluation to determine the future for those power plants,” said Nicholas K. Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer.
The transactions are expected to close in the second quarter of 2017, subject to regulatory approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and will not have a material impact on AEP earnings.
There will be no employment impact from the ownership transfers as AEP already operates Conesville Plant and Dynegy operates Zimmer Plant.
AEP currently owns 2,725 MW of competitive generation in Ohio. After the transaction is complete, AEP would own 92 percent, or 1,461 MW, of Conesville Plant; 595 MW of Cardinal Plant; 603 MW of Stuart Plant and the 48 MW Racine Plant. Dayton Power & Light owns the remaining 129 MW of Conesville Unit 4.
Dynegy is part-owner of the Stuart and Killen power plants in Adams County, Ohio. The partners in those two plants haves said they want to shut them down by mid-2018 if they can get regulator approval.

AEP recently sold the Gavin power plant at Cheshire, Ohio, as part of its exit from Ohio-based generation.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Radar classes

Here's an article I had in this week's Waterways Journal about radar classes offered at the Point Pleasant River Museum and Learning Center.

I like visiting this place and writing about it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Casino boat for sale

I got an email from Heartland Barge this morning advertising a casino boat for sale. The price is $1,399,999.

Here is basic information from the email.

Vessel Service: Passenger (Inspected)Builder: Jeffboat LLCYear built: 1995Length/Width: 310' x 70'Depth: 14.6'Eye Level: 57'Main Engine (Stern) Stack Clearance: 80'
Ornamental (Forward) Stack Clearance: 96.7'
**Ornamental Forward Stack can be removed**
Gross Tonnage: 1589 Tons
Net Tonnage: 995 Tons

I didn't find the boat on Heartland's website. Either it's not there yet, or they, like my wife, know that the best way to hide something from me or my mini-me son is to put it in plain sight.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Foggy morning

The fog down by the river was pretty intense this morning. You couldn't see the other side. You could hardly see anything unless you were right on top of it.

At one point, I thought I heard a boat going by, partly from the sound of its engines and partly because I thought I heard the sound of a barge echoing the sound of a metal tool dropped on it. But after a few minutes I checked the water's surface, and there was no wake, so I must have been hearing something else.

There were few Canada geese feeding on the grass.

And there were some ducks swimming in the river. But other than that, there was little to see.

Trying to keep two power plants running

People in Adams County, Ohio, are doing their best to prevent Dayton Power & Light from shutting down the Killen and Stuart power plants along the Ohio River next year.

The two plants generate about $9 million in annual property taxes for the county and other political entities, the motion says. The Manchester School District alone gets $5.6 million in annual revenue from the plants...

Another coal-fired power plant demolished

The former Kammer power plant south of Moundsville, W.Va., is being demolished, and the property has been sold to a private developer.

According to the story in the Wheeling newspaper

With demolition already underway on portions of its closed Kammer Plant, American Electric Power recently sold the former coal-fired electricity generator to the Frontier Group of Companies for redevelopment.

Frontier is the same firm that recently purchased 1,100 acres of former Weirton Steel Corp. property for demolition and redevelopment and acquired the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. Mingo Junction plant in 2012.

Last fall, AEP sold its Tanners Creek power plant property to the state of Indiana for possible future development as a river port.

AEP has at least one other shuttered power plant along the Ohio whose future is unknown to the rest of us, that being the Philip Sporn plant a few miles below the Racine Locks and Dam.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pittsburgh and its three rivers

Today while looking for something else I happened upon a chapter in a digitized book made available by Carnegie Mellon University. The chapter is titled "Pittsburgh's Three Rivers: From Urban Industrial Infrastructure to Environmental Infrastructure."

It's a good read for people who are interested in how the Ohio River and its tributaries have changed over the years. A lot of river histories deal with transportation and settlement. This chapter deals with the more mundane issue of water treatment systems, sewage treatment (or lack thereof) and how industry and mining took over Pittsburgh's three rivers, their shorelines and their tributaries, often to the detriment of common people.

The chapter runs from pages 41 to 62. It can be read in one sitting, but it's packed with information that can help a person understand how cities all along the Ohio embraced the river, turned their backs on it and now try to find ways to take advantage of it in ways other than for commerce and industry.

The authors take several pages discussing the history of Pittsburgh's sanitary sewer and sewage treatment system. It may sound dull, but it provides an interesting history of how people looked upon rivers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As is the case today, needs had to be balanced against costs, and Pittsburgh officials wondered why they had to be the first to treat their sewage when nobody else was.

Then the chapter discusses the effects of acid mine drainage on the Ohio and its tributaries. I can't speak for the Pittsburgh area, but I can tell you that in my part of the Ohio Valley, that problem dragged into the 1970s and perhaps beyond.

"The economic importance of coal production in southwestern Pennsylvania impeded attempts by government to counter the burden of mine acid drainage." That was from Page 50 of the book. Read the whole paragraph to see how people who lived downstream from coal mines had to live with whatever coal companies chose to dispose of, aided by the Pennsylvania legal system.

From Page 53: "Sewage from Pittsburgh and other communities overwhelmed the oxidation capacity of the streams, creating offensive sights and smells on the rivers. ... Fish were absent from long-dead stretches of the rivers, and chemical pollution fouled the taste of many drinking water supplies." This was in 1934. But legislation enacted in 1937 began to reverse that, and conservation efforts were charging ahead by 1945.

After World War II, city leaders began the process of economic growth to prevent loss of industry. Part of that was the clearing of land where the three rivers meet to form what is now the Point. Other than that one effort, the rivers were pretty much ignored, the authors say. Much development turned its back on the rivers. They cite Three Rivers Stadium as one example. Its circular design gave no views of the rivers it was named for, they note. "(D)espite the dramatic postwar renewal program, municipal leaders persisted in viewing the three rivers as engineered, infrastructural systems for industry and urban development."

The collapse of the steel and coal industries in the late 1970s and early 1980s gave the city the opportunity to see the river as having a greater purpose. As the authors say, at one people the three rivers were so heavily industrialized that people stopped seeing them as part of nature. Now that has changed, and various interests share it, although not always in harmony.

The last sentence, on Page 62, sums up the Pittsburgh area's relationship with the rivers and explain their importance to the region's future. Read it for yourself.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Second best

Sometimes you get there ten minutes too late to get the picture you want, leaving you only a few minutes to figure out what would be second best. That's what happened to me this evening.

That's the M/V Galveston Bay heading down the river past Huntington WV and the M/V Hoosier State heading up the river.

91 boats on the river

This morning before I settled down to doing some serious stuff, I wondered how many boats are on the Ohio River and how many of them I had seen.

There are 981.5 miles of Ohio River. Most boats travel large parts of it, but there are some that are assigned to particular facilities such as power plants, and there are some that stick pretty close to home. It's unlikely I have seen boats that spend their days in, say, the Paducah harbor, so I needed to limit my search to something I didn't want to spend all day on.

Thus, I figured I would count the boats I could find on the Ohio River here in my home range of the Huntington District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That's about 311 miles of river from the Captain Anthony Meldahl Locks and Dam near Cincinnati to the Hannibal Locks and Dam at New Martinsville, W.Va.

That section of river has eight pools. Following are the pools, the number of boats on each this morning (as best I could count), the number I have not photographed and their names. I could be wrong on some of these, as they may have had different names when I got them a few years ago, but I'm going with what's on the nameboard now. And I may have gotten their photos once but have forgotten since. If so, please forgive me.

Meldahl: 17 boats, 5 not photographed. Jenny Ann, City of Maysville, Janet Elaine, Christine B, Mary Alice Baker.

Greenup: 30 boats, 4 not photographed. Ed McLaughlin, Sue Chappell, Energy, J.C. Thomas.

Robert C. Byrd: 18 boats, 3 not photographed. Penny P, Fred R.Shedd, Mr. King.

Racine: 6 boats, 2 not photographed. Dale Taylor, Vulcan.

Belleville: 15 boats, 3 not photographed. Austin Cole, Loretta G, Cenac, Dirk Taylor.

Willow Island: 5 boats, 2 not photographed. Roy F. Stevens, Quaker State.

So out of 91 boats, that's 72 boats I have pictures of and 19 that I don't. But there's still a lot of river left.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Murray objects to Stuart, Killen closures

Murray Energy, the parent company of Murray American River Transportation, has filed an objection with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to plans by Dayton Power & Light to close the Killen and Stuart power plants sometime next year.

From the article:

"The stipulation and Recommendation completely fails to address the staggering Adverse Closure Effects that it unloads upon Murray Energy and the citizens of Ohio," Murray said in its filing. "Rather, it focuses primarily on serving the private self-interests of the parties to the agreement, many of which, including the Sierra Club, appear to stand ready to receive substantial payments under the self-serving agreement."

# # #

In a totally unrelated announcement, plans have been announced to shut down the largest coal-fired power plant in the United States, although that action is not necessarily final.

Monday, February 13, 2017

That's a lot of barges for the Ohio River

This is the M/V Chuck Zebula, seen passing Huntington WV this afternoon.

It had been a while since I had seen an oversized tow on the Ohio. The last I checked, the Zebula was at the mouth of the Big Sandy River, where I assume it was dropping off some of those empties.

M/V Speedway

Here is one I got of the Marathon Petroleum towboat Speedway this morning as it passed Huntington WV.

Afterward, I had to go downtown and I noticed the light has changed. Not the traffic light. The sunlight. It feels a lot warmer now than it did last month.Sunrise is coming earlier. We'll lose that hour soon when daylight savings time returns, but we can enjoy it now.

The first day of spring is still a little over a month away, so some of us can take comfort in the fact winter is two-thirds over. I don't know about the rest of the Ohio River, but here in the Greenup pool, we usually have one last great snowstorm in March.

As for me, my favorite time of the year is when farmers start plowing their fields, because spring is coming.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

In the news, 2/11/2017

It's almost always good to see property redevelopment at the old lock and dam properties on the Ohio River. Now the park at what used to be Lock and Dam 50 is getting some boat docks to make things easier on recreational boaters.

# # #

And those automatic license plate readers that bill you for crossing a bridge in Louisville? If you think you were charged wrongly, you can appeal, although it sounds like you'll have to prove the car is not yours. If someone borrowed it and crossed the bridge without your consent, tough.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

An artist's view of the Mississippi

A painter has an exhibit in St. Louis of paintings he made while riding a towboat on the Mississippi River.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The casino in Rising Sun, Indiana

A TV station in Terre Haute, Ind., went to Rising Sun to do a piece on the impact of the casino there. The article was generally positive. (Link fixed. Sorry.).

What has happened in Rising Sun sounds like what happened in the village of Barboursville here in West Virginia after the Huntington Mall, the largest indoor shopping mall in West Virginia, opened in 1981. There was so much tax money coming into the village treasury that the village ran out of alleys to pave. So now they're expanding and improving their park.

It's been nearly seven years since I was in Rising Sun. It looks like the blog needs to go down there again and spend a day or two looking around.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

M/V Austin C. Settoon in black and white

Again, I was going through some pictures and decided to try a couple in black and white. Here's one.

The Austin C. Settoon was up this way on Feb. 5.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

M/V Enterprise and M/V Austin C. Settoon

The Enterprise and the Austin C. Settoon were in my area today. With names like those, how could I not get photos?

The first one I saw was the Enterprise headed downbound I know not where. Perhaps it was returning to its home port of Covington, Ky. According to the Coast Guard vessel documentation website, the Enterprise is owned by C&B Marine Equipment LLC. It's 86 feet long and 34 feet wide. It was built in 2013.

This is where I tried to get clever and run a photo through an HDR program.

Eh, it kind of worked.

The Coast Guard has records of at least 98 commercial, fishing, recreational and other vessels named Enterprise, not counting variations.

The Enterprise encountered the northbound Austin C. Settoon right in front of where I stood, with a new growth of shrubs and stuff to block my view. Here is a view I got of the Settoon a few minutes later.

For some reason the autofocus on my camera has decided to give me trouble lately, so it didn't want to cooperate on most of the photos I got of the Settoon. Or maybe it was me.

For the record, the Austin C. Settoon is owned by Settoon Towing LLC of Pierre Part, La. It is 91.6 feet long and 34 feet wide. It was built in 2009 by Eastern Shipbuilding Group.

While there may be nearly a hundred boats named Enterprise, there is only one Austin C. Settoon.

The new Murray boat in black and white

Last night I figured I would play with some photos I took last September of the new Murray American Transportation towboat when it came up the Ohio River. The boat was on the hip of another boat, and the sun was in such a spot where I could not get a good shadow-free shot of the new boat.

As I did several things, I experimented to see how it would look in black and white. This is the better view, as the sun was behind my right shoulder.

And this is the view from the north, or Ohio, side of the river

I don't know if Murray American plans to have a christening ceremony, and I don't know if it plans to send the boat down this way any time soon when the lighting conditions are more favorable. If I get back to the upper part of the river again, I'll be on the lookout for it.

Friday, February 3, 2017

A few photos from Ravenswood, W.Va.

A few things seen on this town of about 3,200 people in the Racine pool on Jan. 31, 2017.

This is the William S. Ritchie Bridge crossing the Ohio. I couldn't find a good spot to get the whole bridge in the picture. It will look better when the hills behind it are green again.

This is the bridge as seen from the Ohio approach.

What I assume is a vacant storefront in Ravenswood decorated to recall a business no longer there

And if you're going to play with a Frisbee, make sure it's a real Frisbee sold by Wham-O. Otherwise it's just a flying disc. And when you break it, throw it in the river and see how far it goes. This one made it to the West Virginia shoreline at Ravenswood, in case anyone reading this was its former owner.

I saw some other stuff there that requires historical research. It will take a little bit of time, but it will be worth it.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

President Trump, the EPA and the Ohio Valley et al

Here's an article that looks at how the opening days of the Trump administration affected EPA grants  that communities rely on for clean water and for brownfield redevelopment.


There was something about President Trump's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court that struck me a familiar, but I couldn't place it. Today I remembered. There used to be a Gorsuch power plant along the Ohio River near Marietta, Ohio, that was closed several years ago. It's been a while since I was up that way, so I can't say for certain whether the Richard H. Gorsuch power station remains standing or has been demolished.

More on Stuart and Killen

Dayton Power & Light announced this week that it intends to shut down the Stuart and Killen power plants along the Ohio River. The two plants in Ohio and are upriver from Maysville, Ky. The unanswered questions in the newspaper articles I read had to do with the fact that DP&L owns neither plant outright. It operates them, but AEP and Dynegy also have ownership interest.

This article that I found on platts.com answers some of those questions. While it does not specify what Dynegy's opinion is, as company spokesmen could not be reached for comment, it quotes an AEP spokesperson as saying that company tends to agree with the DP&L plan.

Stuart and Killen are powered by coal. This action makes me wonder about the futures of some other coal-fired plants along the river. I won't name them because it's just speculation right now, but in this environmental, regulatory and business environment, the future can be cloudy.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

M/V Chuck Zebula

Northbound having just passed under the bridge at Ravenswood, W.Va., on Jan. 31, 2017.