Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Retired power plant to be demolished

The Walter C. Beckjord power plant along the Ohio River near Cincinnati was retired from service several years ago, and now it is scheduled for demolition.

Duke Power, which owns most of the plant and the property, and its partners have agreed to sell the station to a company that will demolish it and aid in redeveloping the site.

From the news release:

"Beckjord Station powered our region and played a vital role in the county's economy for countless families and businesses," said Jim Henning, president, Duke Energy Ohio and Kentucky. "We've pursued an outcome that will advance the county's priorities with regard to safeguarding the environment and revitalizing the property and we're pleased that this historic property is poised for a second act as an integral part of our community."
According to this article in The Columbus Dispatch, the Beckjord plant has a history of environmental problems, which is not surprising considering its age.

Again from the news release:

"With this announcement, CLP will address environmental needs, including groundwater monitoring, abatement, decommissioning and demolition of the facility. In the coming weeks, CLP will work under the direction of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) to determine final environmental plans for the site, which includes the station and surrounding coal ash ponds."

It's noteworthy that the environmental concerns were addressed in the second paragraph of the release.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Where is everybody?

With a rain-swollen Ohio River in the background, the basketball court at McClelland Park in Huntington, W.Va., was empty and quiet on a Monday afternoon.

Thanks to the teacher strike, kids weren't in school today. But they weren't anywhere to be seen outside, either. It was a fine warm day. The air temperatures and the sunlight all shouted spring, but no one took advantage.

Another big flood

Every few years someone along the Ohio River must deal with a flood that will be remembered. This year so far it's been Cincinnati and Louisville, with communities downriver preparing for what is to come.

Navigation has effectively been shut down as locks close, and on-shore river-related businesses deal with being under water.

Comparisons are being made to 1997, which was the flood of record since the system of flood-control dams on the tributaries was completed.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

If I had $38 to spare ...

The upper Mississippi River — the part of the Mississippi north of the mouth of the Ohio at Cairo — is really a tributary of a larger river that includes the Ohio River and the lower Mississippi. Everyone knows that except people who assign place names and zealous Mississippi River fans.

So one scholar posted an article in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association using several measures to determine whether the Mississippi or the Ohio is the largest river in this part of the U.S.A. From the abstract of his article:

The Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio River Basins were evaluated using data from nine selected U.S. Geological Survey gaging stations and ranked using the six metrics. Using an average for the rankings across the three rivers, the Ohio is ranked highest for three individual metrics (discharge, fish richness, and fish endemism), and highest across the average for all six metrics, and for an average of five metrics, including hydrology and biodiversity metrics. Thus, our results suggest that the Ohio River could be considered the most prominent river in the U.S. and that the river itself should have the same name (Ohio or Mississippi) from New Orleans to at least Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
I could buy the entire article for $38, but money in the Ross household is kind of tight right now and will be for the foreseeable future. Let's just say, though, that the conclusion of this scholarly article was no surprise to people who know the river.

It was surprising to me at least to read that the Ohio was ahead of the others in biodiversity.

P.S. So you don't have to go to the dictionary, endemism is "natural to or characteristic of a specific people or place; native; indigenous" or "belonging exclusively or confined to a particular place", according to dictionary.com.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A couple of things to watch for next Tuesday

I wish I could be there, but that's what the trade press is for.

Washington, DC – Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI) will address the news media about a variety of issues related to inland waterways transportation and lock and dam infrastructure: the Administration’s infrastructure proposal, the President’s FY2019 budget request, Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 2018 bill, and related issues. 
WHEN:           Tuesday, February 27, 9:30 a.m. (breakfast will be served)

WHERE:         National Press Club (NPC), 529 14th Street, NW, Washington, D.C., First Amendment Room

Meanwhile, I'm just beginning to look at the river forecasts for early next week. Here in my area, the forecast shows the river will come back up and crest a foot or two higher than it did two or three days ago. Places that went under water then will have to clean up again.

More to come later.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

M/V Bill Berry

The M/V Bill Berry was tied up on the Kanawha River at Point Pleasant, W.Va., on Sunday, Feb. 18, because of high water. The light was so good that the boat just screamed that someone should get some pictures of it, so I did.

Here are some of those shots. Each is edited differently to see how things would look.

Maybe some edits worked, and maybe some didn't. You decide.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Ohio River flood, 2/19/18, part 3 of 3

The gates of the Greenup Locks and Dam were open as expected ...

... but something was missing. In the gap between the last pier and that structure next to the Ohio shore is the hydroelectric power plant. I knew those things were made to be submerged in high water, but I had never seen one totally under water before.

There wasn't much room between the dam gates and the river.

Meanwhile, these signs on the lock wall on the Kentucky side of the river are missing something. If memory serves, they are missing the word "dam".

Not here, but up at the Gallipolis Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam, I've seen at least one guy take a small boat out to a dam pier and fish off of it until someone from the locks told him he had to leave.

A few miles up the river is the Greenup County, Ky., courthouse complex. The courthouse itself sits at the top of the river bank, marked by this sign.

Across the river, whoever lives in this house has a good view of things right now.

The weather was pretty good. It would have been a nice day to be on a boat, if you could get to the boat.

And one last shot of the Greenup Locks and Dam ...

... before we leave the flood chasing to people downriver as they await the crest there.

One thing about this flood is that is is the first since drone photography became affordable and popular. It doesn't take much searching to find drone stills or videos of flood scenes.

What I wonder about what happens when drones become more affordable and thus more  numerous. Sooner or later two will bump into each other in mid-air and come crashing down onto someone or someone's vehicle. Or someone will become a habitual drone peeping tom.

That's for the lawyers and insurance companies to figure out.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Ohio River flood, 2/19/18 (Part 2)

When I arrived in Ironton, Ohio, in late morning, city work crews had already installed the floodwall barriers on the south side of the Storms Creek opening and had begun the process on the north side. The work attracted a stream of spectators that came and went for the hour or so I was there.

The gate on the south side let some water seep through. It ran off into storm drains on each side of the street. I saw what looked like a pump station nearby.

At the far lower end of town was another floodwall opening that workers had not started on yet. Past that, out of town, was another low place under water.

Up next: The Greenup Locks and Dam and Greenup, Ky. That comes tomorrow morning.

Update: Life has gotten in the way. I will try to have the Greenup pictures up by Tuesday evening.

Ohio River flood, 2/19/18 (1 of 3)

Today's pictorial coverage of the flood of 2018 takes us down the Ohio River to the Greenup Locks and Dam and back. I got too many pictures to put in one entry, so it's being broken into three parts. Part 2 comes later this evening, and Part 3 either around midnight or tomorrow morning.

The first stop on the grand tour was South Point, Ohio. The village gets its name from the fact it is the southernmost incorporated community in Ohio. South Point has no floodwall, so people who live there get a good view of the river in both low water and high water. In the brief time I was there today, the street along the river was busy with people getting a closeup look at the river, boats and barges.

You could see the Marathon Petroleum towboats Robinson and Paul G. Blazer from the village park.

Or a view of this boat (Superior Marine,  I think) behind some barges.

And deckhands talking about something.

And a spot where barges are tied to the bank

Across the river at a Marathon terminal was the Paul G. Blazer.

And tied up at Kenova's Virginia Point Park was the M/V Energy.

Now before I headed down the river,  I needed to make sure the floodwall gates in downtown Huntington were up. They were, and the city did its best to let people know they should stay away from them short of posting an armed guard 24/7.

Still, I saw at least one person climbing up on them to get a look and a picture

Next: Putting up the gates in Ironton, Ohio.

# # #

Before that, though, a word about what happened upriver. From my Facebook contacts, it appears some communities were hit hard by the flood. Parts of Sistersville, W.Va., may have been under water, and images of water in downtown Pomeroy, Ohio, are common.

Some have asked why Pomeroy does not have a floodwall. There are probably several reasons, but one of the simplest could be that a floodwall to save Pomeroy from the river would probably result in the end of Pomeroy.

The village of Pomeroy sits in a bend of the river. You have the river, a high bank, some former railroad tracks, the main drag through town and commercial buildings facing the river. There's not much room between the top of the bank and the hill. Building a floodwall would require removing about half or more of the buildings in the commercial district.

Pomeroy has a great view of the river in good times, but that also brings about a too-close view in times like this.

By the way, Pomeroy has two well-known claims to fame and a third one that's not as well known. The village has no four-way intersections, and it has the only courthouse in the world (they say) with ground-level entrances on all three floors.

The other claim, according to a historical marker there along the river, is that Pomeroy is where the coal barge was invented.

Coming this evening: Flood stuff from down the river

Today I went down the river to see what the high water looked like between Huntington and the Greenup Locks and Dam. I got a few photos worth sharing after I can select some and edit them, along with catching up on flood stuff. Figure on seeing my next post tonight, maybe even before your bedtime.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Ohio River flood, 2/18/18

This afternoon I drove up Ohio 7 from Huntington to Gallipolis and on to Point Pleasant. As expected, there were some detours, but I'm from that area, so I already knew most of the back roads that could be used for detours.

Here are a few pictures from that trek.

First, about all of Harris Riverfront Park in Huntington is under water, including the sidewalk at the top of the bank. At least the playground that my granddaughter refers to as the Blue Park was still dry as of this morning.

At Crown City in Galllia County, Ohio, the sign was up warning people to stay off the bridge painted yellow, as most of it was under water.

Ohio 7 just before the mouth of Swan Creek. In early afternoon only a part of the southbound lane was under water. By evening the water was up to the double yellow line.

Below the Gallipolis Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam, the motor vessels James R. Morehead and Georgetown were tied up to the M&G Polymers dock.

And just below those two Campbell boats was another, the M/V Tommy H.

Just above the dam, the road was closed.

And some people wanted a closer look. The guardrail along the road was under water.

At Mound Hill Cemetery in Gallipolis, the encroachment of floodwater on the floodplain was plain to see.

Property with a river view? No kidding.

Silos are reflected in backwater.

Across the river in Point Pleasant, this truck at the Campbell dock was partly under water

On the trip back down, the water was over the road a couple of miles above Crown City. I drove through this water, as it didn't seem too deep.

Down below the Lawerence County village of Athalia,  the road was closed, but some people drove through it anyway. (My apologies for the lens flares).

This water looked too deep, so I turned around and took a detour on back roads. When I got home, someone had sent me this link about how a family of four had to be rescued after driving into the water below Gallipolis.

These photos were all quick edits. I have a couple that I want to spend more time on, so I may post them Monday or Tuesday. This is one. It happens to be my wife's favorite of those I took today.

This is the sun setting behind the hills of Glenwood, W.Va., with floodwaters covering a bottom on the Ohio side near the mouth of Swan Creek.

The river is supposed to crest in my area tomorrow. Part of Pomeroy, Ohio, was under water today. I was tempted to drive up there tomorrow, but (a) just getting there could take a while, and (b) emergency services people probably have enough to do without people coming by to look around. If I were still a member of the credentialed media, maybe I would go.

I don't recall heading downriver to look at a flood, so if I go somewhere tomorrow, it will likely be to Greenup, Ky. We'll play it by ear in the morning.

Flood photos coming

Today I made it up the river as far as Point Pleasant. Took lots of pictures. I hope to post them tonight.

Here's one to whet your  appetite.

I drove through water once this evening, but not this deep. When I saw this Iturned around and took a detour.

A photo from last Sunday

The river news this week is high water. A week ago, the water was up but not abnormally so. And the river was covered in a light fog. This is how the East End bridge at Huntington looked, with a little processing to bring out some details.

One thing that would have made picture better would be seeing the M/V Charleston or the M/V O. Nelson Jones in that fog. That was not to be this time. Maybe someday.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Another look at Pleasants, Stuart and Killen

(Formatting problem corrected. My apologies.)

Yesterday’s news that FirstEnergy would retire the Pleasants Power Station near Willow Island, W.Va., if a buyer is not found was part of a longer trend in which Ohio-based utilities are under pressure from investors and environmental groups to get out of the coal-based power generation business.

The J.M. Stuart power plant as seen in the distance from the lower end of Maysville, Ky.

The pressure is more intense in Ohio than in West Virginia. Several years ago Ohio deregulated its retail power markets. That effectively separated the generation of electricity from the sale of electricity to the end user. Now that natural gas and renewables are more competitive, coal is at a disadvantage in deregulated states.

If Pleasants closes on Jan. 1, and if Dayton Power & Light retires its J.M. Stuart and Killen power plants in Adams County, Ohio, as planned in June of this year, that makes three coal-fired plants that will go off the grid. Let’s look at what has been happening to those plants in recent years.


Stuart is one of the ten largest power plants along the Ohio River in terms of power produced. However, it has been on a downward trend since 2009. Until that time, it had generated about 15 million megawatts of power per year. Production bottomed out at about 9.85 million in 2015 and rebounded to about 11.25 million in 2016, according to data on the Energy Information Administration website.

Last year was another low point for Stuart in terms of production. An explosion at Stuart in January injured six workers, and production never recovered. Monthly data for 2017 are preliminary and subject to revision. They show that not one month in 2017 did generation match or exceed that for the same month in 2016. Through November, production was down about 3.8 million megawatts, or 37.5 percent, compared with the first eleven months of 2016.


The Killen power plant is a few miles upriver from Stuart, but its production in 2017 was the opposite of Stuart’s. In the long term, Killen’s production has been in decline since 2009. It produced about 4.3 million to 4.5 million megawatts per year up to then, then saw a dropoff. Production in 2016 was 3.66 million megawatts.

Something changed last year. Production through November was 3.72 million megawatts, meaning Killen had already exceeded 2016’s entire production. Through November, output was 10.5 percent higher than it was through November 2016.

If you compare Killen’s increase with Stuart’s decrease, though, you still get a drop of about 3.06 million megawatts.


In the past ten to fifteen years, net generation at Pleasants has been up and down. Except for 2004 and 2009, production varied from about 7.5 million megawatts per year to about 8.5 million megawatts. Production dropped to a recession-level 7.0 million in 2015 and 6.9 million in 2016.

Through November 2017, generation was about 7.0 million, which was about 1.8 percent higher than all of 2016.

Month-to-month comparisons vary widely. March and April combined were about 925,000 megawatts ahead of 2016, while September and October were about 554,000 megawatts behind.

Overall, through November generation at Pleasants was about 13.5 percent above that of the same period in 2016.

Up next

The question in West Virginia is whether a buyer will be found for Pleasants. In Ohio, Dayton Power & Light has said it was looking for someone to purchase its interests in other coal-fired power plants. And in Pennsylvania, FirstEnergy is under pressure to sell or retire the Bruce Mansfield power plant, which is the largest coal-fired plant along the Ohio in terms of capacity. The problem is that Mansfield has not been competitive on the wholesale market in recent years.

Off and on, I’ve been writing about coal and the Ohio River for more than 40 years. What’s going on now is another chapter in a long story about opposition and hurdles the coal industry has faced in that time.

All three of these plants get all of their coal by barge, so the decrease in generation or total retirement of the plants themselves will reduce the need for towboats and barges on the river.

The next months and years will show whether the industry can or will bounce back, and how long it will take to do so.