Friday, October 28, 2011

WVU Students Help with Last Cleanup

( In some views, you need to click the headline above to see the full article).

This summer I have had a number of WVU students out on the river with me for cleanups. In the past I've concentrated on getting younger kids out, but they are hard to find in the summer. So, the WVU students, many with public service requirements for courses, have been on board this summer.

Last weekend was our last weekend. It's time to lay The Monongahela Monitor up at Mark's Marine Repair for the winter. We'll be doing some maintenance on her over the winter.

The photos show Josh Dyer, Andy Sheldon and Andrew Fergison near the Ruby McQuain park cleaning that area, and our final "catch" delivered to Walnut Street where the folks at the Solid Waste Authority haul it away.

Well, it's always sad to close down for the winter. We enjoyed meeting the volunteers we had out and we moved a lot of junk from the river and river banks out and to the dump. We kept the Morgantown harbor area pretty clean all summer, and The Monitor served us well.

This winter we'll be finishing work on two information kiosks that will be placed at the Ruby McQuain Park (at the boat launch ramp) and at Star City. We also plan to organize some roadside cleanups in the western part of the county, near creeks that run into the Mon. These will take place in late winter or early spring.

I hope you all keep warm this winter! Thanks for reading the blog.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Recent Cleanup with WVU Students

Brady Gasser and Emilee Ross of Sandusky, Ohio, were my crew on the Monongahela Monitor recently. They are WVU students who signed up through the university's Center for Civic Engagement to help the community.

Boy, did they. Both of these young people worked really hard. We began in the morning doing a quick once-over in the Morgantown harbor area. I had to caution Emilee not to spend too much time on the real small stuff along the Ruby Park. I knew our time would be better spent up above the dam where litter once caught behind the dam drifts along the shores.

Sure enough, we found lots of the usual plastic, Stryofoam and aluminum cans, lodged along the west bank. In all, we collected 10 big bags of litter and a couple tires.

By the afternoon we were pretty worn out. However, I took the crew up to the Morgantown Ordnance Works. Emilee had asked what the old smoke stacks in the distance were. Of course she was asking the wrong person, because I can't give a short answer on that. So I told the whole story of the heavy water project there back in the early part of WWII.

Emliee and Brady, thanks! You are two are great! By the way, Emilee is a nursing freshman; Brady is in political science and geography freshman.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rain! Last swim?

With all the rain we are having, NOAA predicts that the river will go from 9.5 feet depth that we had last week in the channel to about 15 feet. At the "normal pool" level of 9.5 feet, 12,000 square feet of water per second goes through the dam. That's a lot. However, at 15 feet that rockets to about 34,000 square feet per second.

Lot's of water.

Well, I may have gotten my last swim of the summer in down at the dock on Sunday. I took some folks out for a trip on The Monongahela Monitor Saturday and it was so hot I didn't have much trouble convincing three of them to go overboard with me. They overcame their reluctance. I guess I understand that reluctance, but it's too bad. Anyway, those three are converts.

Then on Sunday, I went down by myself. I was trying to fix my stereo on the boat, with no success. It was hot, and after I'd determined that I was making no progress with the stereo, I jumped in. There were two or three boats from down around Pittsburgh at the dock (one was huge!) and several folks from those boats had jumped in, too.

Well, now it's raining, much cooler, and swimming in the Mon may be over for this year. I wish I had done more. There's something beautiful about jumping in the river, watching the green bubbles coming up as you rise with them to the surface from the cool, dark depth, or lying on the surface, in the peace of the river with the trees along the shore so green, and a kingfisher overhead, a dot of gray in the vastness of the sky.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Still Cleaning Up

Here's a Cardinal Flower (Lobelia Cardinalis). Saw several of these along the bank during the cleanup.

My river cleanup is continuing. Here's some of the latest. Pretty much the same as always, plastic, balls, cans and bottles. The area around the Morgantown Wharf District is quite clean now. This weekend I worked the area above the dam.

,and After on the deck of The Monongahela Monitor.

And, going through the lock at Morgantown, I took the photo below of the Corps of Engineers repair equipment. Some work is being done on the dam.

News: I have several WVU students signed up to work on river projects this fall. During the winter, we will be recruiting youth organizations from around the county to do litter cleanups on the roads (before it goes into the streams in the spring).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

No Wake Zone in Morgantown

This article from The Dominion Post and the editorial below says it all. Thanks to everyone who helped, especially Mark Wise of our local parks department.

City OKs no-wake zone on Mon RIver

Ban will be enforced once buoys in place

The Dominion Post

A new rule is making waves — or rather stopping them — on the Monongahela River along Morgantown’s riverfront park.
As soon as the buoys are in place, a no-wake zone will be in effect and will be enforceable for the section of river between Morgantown’s Lock and Dam and 500 feet below the Westover Bridge, said Lt. Jon Cogar with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR).
The WVDNR and the Morgantown Police Department will have the authority to enforce the idling no-wake zone, which means watercraft in that area can make no wake at all, he said.
Tim Terman, who spends many of his weekends cleaning up trash in the river, was one of the main forces behind the no-wake zone. He brought the proposal before Morgantown City Council, which passed the resolution April 19. The paperwork was then passed through the DNR.
“I’ve seen too many dangerous incidents on the river already, and at this point, there aren’t really that many boaters. But we’re seeing more kayaks, rowers, swimmers, and having in that mix boats running full throttle through the Wharf District presents a danger to everyone,” Terman said via email. “So, having a no-wake zone will slow boats — just from the Westover Bridge through the Wharf District, to the lock. It won’t be such a bother, really, for such a short distance. But we may have saved a life or prevented serious injury.”
In addition to protection for kayakers, swimmers, rowers and those on non-motorized boats, the no-wake zone will help protect the boats that are docked or in rented spaces at the Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners (BOPARC) docks in the Wharf District and riverfront park. Heavy wakes can jostle boats and injure boaters, he said.
Towboats, Terman said, aren’t a concern as they move very slowly through the water already.
“But boats with huge motors can come around the bend below the bridge and be upon a kayaker or swimmer very quickly,” he said. “And if the sun is in the operator’s eyes, there could be an accident.”
Jimmy King, WVU’s head rowing coach, said he supports the no-wake zone both for the rowing teams and any regular river users.
“Recreational use of the river has increased substantially in the four years that I have been coaching at WVU,” King said via email. “In addition to the fishermen and the rowers, we now commonly see tri-athletes swimming in the river, canoeists, kayakers and recreational boaters including those riding PWCs (personal watercrafts, such as waverunners). Whereas the lock and dam has always been a prime fishing area, the BOPARC docks have made the Wharf District a destination point for all.”
“I spoke to two yacht owners who were up here docking at the marina from around Pittsburgh,” Terman said. “They said they come up here to visit because it’s peaceful and quiet. So, a no-wake zone will help preserve that.”
BOPARC director Mark Wise could not be reached for comment in time for this report.

DOMINION POST Friday 12 August 2011:
A decision certain not to cause waves
No-wake zone on popular section of Monongahela River long overdue
A lot of boats can get rocked in the wake of some official resolutions. Not this one. As a matter of fact, a decision by Morgantown’s City Council last spring won’t cause a ripple. The resolution establishes a no-wake zone along a short span of the Monongahela River — from near the Westover Bridge to the Morgantown Lock and Dam. This decision is long overdue. Our chief concern is safety. WaveRunners and other kinds of fast-moving personal watercraft already don’t account for a lot of the river traffic in this area of the river. However, the numbers of kayakers, row boats, swimmers and fishermen are increasingly growing, and don’t have the means to move out of the way of dangerous waves and boats.
Also, not only is a no-wake zone good for recreational use of the river, but it also protects the shoreline and the boats moored at the public marina and dock near the city’s riverfront park. Though most boaters are considerate and take precautions not to swamp others, some don’t take responsibility for their wake and the damage it causes. And it’s not just that some wakes can dump people out onto the deck of their boats or in the water, but the potential exists for a collision to occur without a no-wake zone on a busy weekend. The Monongahela River’s shoreline is often subject to its own highs and lows — strong currents and occasional flooding. But as a rule the waves along its banks are generally soft and consistent in the area that’s been designated a no-wake zone. The harm to shorelines by the wakes of some boats is especially damaging in developed areas. This no-wake zone should also lend itself to increased visits to the marina in this area by non-motorized craft. There are miles and miles of the river where recreational boaters in powerful watercraft can range freely with wake-boarders and water-skiers in tow. This no-wake zone probably covers less than a mile of the river’s breadth. It’s not too much to ask that anyone wanting to embrace a calm outing on the river from the seat of a kayak or a canoe should be allowed to do so. As resolutions go, many are unenforceable or make no provision for enforcement. In this case take note: City Council gave both the police department and the Division of Natural Resources authority to enforce this rule. No-wake buoys should soon mark this zone on the river. Now, if we could just calm some of the traffic on land.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Finally went swimming, lost my glasses....

Yesterday I decided to jump in the Mon. It was around 90 degrees, and I went down to the marina quickly after work. There was a strong storm approaching, according the the Internet radar and also announcements on the radio. I was determined to get a quick swim in before it hit.

I could see the dark clouds as I arrived at my boat, changed in to swimming attire, put on my face mask (better to see the cool bubbles with) and jumped overboard. As I came out, I could hear a loud noise across the river on the west side, so I climbed out. The wind was really blowing and I thought "tornado!" Sure seemed like one was approaching. Very strange sound in the trees across the river and everything was blowing around. I tried to secure what I could and to get my clothes back on quickly so I could get off the boat and to safety. But where were my $80 prescription sunglasses. My conclusion is that they are on the bottom of the river now. They are pretty light, and I think they were first to go....


Monday, July 11, 2011

Mayfly attack!

Well, it wasn't an attack, but that headline is sensational, and readers like a good sensation. That's what Jason and Sebastian got, along with mate Chris and I, when we were cleaning litter off the west bank above the Morgantown Dam Sunday.

We were poking around the shore where the litter had drifted up from behind the dam, and we disturbed their resting area on the leaves of trees along the shore. (click the photo for a closer look).

To see the mayflies in the closeup below, click it.

These bugs don't bother people, except for leaving their carcasses all over the place when they die. The lifespan of an adult mayfly can vary from just 30 minutes to one day depending on the species, says the Wikipedia article on these insects. They are very important in feeding fish.

I think our crew will remember this experience. The young men did a great job with us on The Monongahela Monitor, our pontoon boat. They worked hard.

Litter above the dam, along the east shore in particular, is as bad as I've ever seen it.

If I had three boats with three crews, I could get that cleaned up in a week. As it was, we were only able to pull in seven big bags of litter before it was too hot to be working, and we headed back down through the lock (the crew insisted on pulling out litter as we locked), then to Walnut Street to drop off our "catch" and then to the marina.

At left, Sebastian and Jason in the lock.

Jason and Sebastian are freshmen at Morgantown High School and were fulfilling some public service requirements for school.

I don't know who it was that came up with the idea of requiring public service of students, but I'd like to shake his or her hand. Our crew had an impact on the community (we did a real good job along the shore at the Ruby McQuain park) and they learned a lot, too. An of course, they got to steer the boat.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Haven't been swimming yet

I haven't gone swimming in the river yet. Can't say why for sure. We've had 90 degree days already, and there have been lots of people out swimming (triathlon, etc.) I simply haven't gotten around to it. Anyone want to go? I like to dive off my boat into the deep parts. It's such a sensation, falling into the water, then watching the myriad bubbles climb to the surface, as I'm falling still, embraced and enclosed, enveloped, lost in silent water, going deeper, darker, down. At last, the momentum into the depths ends, and I follow the bubbles back up, through the green, and green-blue, into the sunlight. And there, on a branch over the west bank, in the brilliant brightness and blue sky, is a kingfisher.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Last weekend cleanup

We had our first "casual" cleanup on the Mon last weekend. I say casual because the first time out this year we had the big debris release. I understand from the Solid Waste Authority that our crew (including BOPARC and the women's rowing team coaches) pulled more than 1,000 pounds of litter out of the river and about 20 tires on June 15.

This was last weekend, with Jim Geiger and his sons. I think everyone enjoyed the trip, but Jim got a little muddy. Jim, hope you didn't get in trouble. We picked up some litter, but perhaps more importantly, we introduced a couple young people to the Monongahela River and working for a clean environment. That's the goal.

Peggy Pings of the National Park Service went too, and took these photos. Click for larger versions.

Top: Jim, his boys, and me.

Below: Josh learning to steer the boat. He did a real good job. Whenever I take kids out, I always give them a chance to steer. They love it. I would have, when I was a kid.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Debris Release - June 2011

We had a pretty successful liter removal on the river in response to the Corps of Engineers release of debris at the Morgantown Dam. We were informed in advance, and had a crew in place. We were aided by the local parks department, BOPARC, the WVU Women's Rowing Team assistant coaches and the state Department of Environmental Protection. CLICK PHOTOS FOR LARGER IMAGE.

top: The crew off loading our first catch of the day at the foot of Walnut Street, Morgantown. It was about 10 a.m. The debris release began around 8 a.m.

Here we are in the Morgantown Lock, among a debris field. Josh, a WVU student, is giving his best reach with a long "grabber."

Scott, Shay, and Alex man the grabbers as Chris bags.

The crew below the dam with a load for Walnut Street.

At the end of the day, about 2:30 p.m., actually the end of our ability to continue, we had removed about 50 bags of litter and 18 tires. Below, Scott Lemons of the DEP checks the total as Chris Wilson, a volunteer, rolls one last tire onto the pile. Thanks to all who participated!

People ask: Why doesn't someone do something about this problem (litter behind the dam). The Corps should do something, they say. But the Corps is not funded to do litter removal. Well then, why don't we get a litter skimmer out there and keep this cleaned up? Who has $100,00 for such a machine, and who will pay an operator. Well something should be done, they say. These photos you see are it: something being done. This is the best response we can mount. If you have a better idea, let me know. Of course the ultimate answer is to end littering, which causes this situation in the first place.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Remember "Tradgey on the Mon" last spring, well here it comes again

The Corps of Engineers is going to do some work on the Morgantown Dam, and the debris and litter behind the dam will be released on Monday morning.

They had planned to do the work beginning on Thursday, April 9, but were convinced to delay the project because of this weekend's Arts and River Festival.

So, we're going to have a mess on the river Monday. I am organizing an emergency litter response. I have contacted the county litter control, the WV Department of Natural Resources and our local parks department for help.

If you have a boat and can help Monday, please let me know. If you want to see what kind of mess we are talking about, see my blog post from last April.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Back in business, finally

The deck is finished! Almost looks too good for picking up muddy litter, but that's our purpose. Took Alex Hines of WBOY up through the lock to get a look at the litter. Wow, we've got our work cut out for us this summer! Here's his story. Thanks, Alex. Here's our summer schedule.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Monongahela Monitor is back in the river after the winter lay-up. The river has been high. That and the fact that we've been replacing the deck has caused a delay in our spring launch. But the river has fallen and is today about 9.5 feet. Still that is about 10,000 cubic feet of water per second coming over the dam at Morgantown. So there's still a substantial current.

Regardless, we're bringing the boat upriver this evening to dock at the Morgantown marina for our summer cleanup schedule. (Mark at Mark's Marine Repair told me I had to get going). First one is scheduled for this Sunday, May 29. If you want to join us, please email me at We'd leave the dock around 9:30 - 10 a.m. and be back around 1:30 p.m.

You hate plastic bags like I do? Ever hear of Hilex Poly? Give this a read.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mon River Monitor 2011 Summer Schedule

We leave around 9 a.m. and get back to the dock around 1:30 p.m. Send me an e-mail if you'd like to participate. The address is under my profile at the left.Link


Sunday, 29


Saturday, 11

Sunday, 19

Saturday, 25


Sunday, 10

Saturday, 2

Saturday, 16


Sunday, 21

Sunday, 28


Sunday, 4

Sunday, 11

Sunday, 18


Sunday, 16

Sunday, 23

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Deck for the Monitor

We started working on replacing the Monitor's foredeck back in April. It's been a long process, but we are almost finished. New 3/4 inch treated plywood deck with a coat of fiberglass resin to seal it all around. We are now putting the deck back onto the boat.

I'm being helped by Chris Wilson, above, an old friend whom I met either in Key West or in Louisville - I can't recall. The boat is at its usual winter layup location, Mark's Marine Repair. Here he is removing the railing before removing the old, rotted, deck.

Below, with deck removed. This has been an expensive process - the lumber and the fiberglass resin are quite expensive. So, we will happily accept donations to help pay for the much-needed repairs. Please go to this site to help, and thanks!

I will have a cleanup schedule posted soon so that those of you who want to volunteer can plan ahead.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Litter in US - Read about it in Taipei

Last summer my wife and I attended the Appalachian String Band Festival (Clifftop) and made a side trip to Thrumond, WV. On our way we ran into some young people involved in Pick Up America! They are going across the country picking up trash. They spent a great part of the summer here in West Virginia.

Well, their story has reached Taipei, Republic of China.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dominion Post article

I had an agreement with the local newspaper to do an article about litter on the river for the paper's "green edition" an insert dealing with environmental issues. Well, that never happened because they couldn't sell enough ads. So, here's the article; may as well not waste the effort....

Kayak tour leader to focus on litter cleanups

During the Whiskey Rebellion, which ended in 1794 when federal militia marched into western Pennsylvania, the Morgantown tax collector swam across the Monongahela River to escape a mob intent on seeing him tarred and feathered.

That’s one of the many stories I’ve been telling folks during the summers since 1999 – out on the river in kayaks. My tours of the river have given the history of our town and region from the perspective of the river, and, as I’ve always informed my customers, most of what I told was true.

But, this year was my last; not because I’m too old. No, I could keep paddling a while longer. Nor was business weak: This was my best year. I’ve simply got too many other things to do. One of them is cleaning the river.

I began that activity because of the tours – litter and scenic kayaking don’t mix well. But now, not having time for both, next summer I’m planning much more litter removal. Since 2005, I’ve been taking volunteers out to clean liter from the Monongahela banks below and above the dam, focusing on young people who don’t know the river and who might be influenced not to litter.

They get to steer the boat and learn boating skills, and they see the effects of litter on the environment. Adults do the heavy lifting, and we usually return with the deck of The Monongahela Monitor, my 28-foot pontoon boat, filled with bags of litter, tires, barrels, and oddities such as a bowling ball, a computer monitor and the bumper of a red Pontiac.

On a recent late fall day before real cold weather set in and I had to lay up The Monitor, I went upriver to see the litter situation beyond the Morgantown area. That’s where I hope to concentrate my litter sweeps next summer. Passing through the Morgantown Lock, I talked with Eric Thewlis, a WVU engineering graduate who works for the Corps of Engineers.

He said the litter, at least at Morgantown, was not so bad as it had been. “In the past, we’ve had a lot of Styrofoam and barrels, but this year, not so much,” he said.

Perhaps, he speculated, it’s because there hasn’t been a lot of rain, which flushes litter out of the hollows and off of the roads.

Or, he added, “Maybe people aren’t littering so much.”

Another possibility is that much of the litter, bottles, cans, tires, plastics of all sorts—which had gathered behind the dam—drifted upriver when the river flow became weak in July. Then during several trips this summer, my crew on the Monitor picked up much of it where it had lodged in an area along the banks just above the dam.

I can’t say for sure, but my trip upriver seems to confirm this. After I was only about a half mile above the dam I found a barrel, then another, and a cluster of cans and plastic bottles, caught near shore behind a limb. We hadn’t gotten this far up during the summer.
Morgantown is at mile 101 above Pittsburgh. By the time I’d gotten to mile 104, the litter level was discouraging. It’s a lovely stretch of the river, as many who use the rail trail know. They probably can see the barrels and larger litter, but not the bottles and cans. Litter on the river is an aesthetic issue and a threat to wildlife.
I don’t want tourists and visitors to our state to see it.

That’s why I started doing summer cleanups. Then I learned that albatross, the Earth’s largest flying bird, are endangered, mostly because of long-line fishing, but partly because they ingest plastic bottle caps and cigarette lighters.

How many of these have I and The Monitor crew (this summer mostly my wife Maureen and Michelle and Rick Farley and their kids Rich and Ben of Morgantown) picked up? Hundreds, at least.

These plastic items flow through the dams, on to the Ohio and Mississippi and some to the Gulf of Mexico. So, if we snatch these caps and lighters up, will it save the grand birds of the oceans? Some perhaps. Who knows? Regardless, it’s the right thing to do.

I’m often asked why the Corps of Engineers won’t pull the litter out from behind the dams. “It’s simple. We are not mandated by Congress to clean up the litter, and we don’t have the budget,” said Gary Househoulder, Corps operations specialist for the Monongahela River. Householder said he appreciates the Revival program and others who try to keep the river clean. “Guys like you are making people aware of this problem. It’s everywhere. The litter is out there, and a big rain comes and off it goes, down the river.”

Further up the river (the Mon flows north from Fairmont), at a place called Round Bottom, I met Hobie Butcher of Morgantown. He and a friend were fishing just below Hildebrand Lock and Dam, about five miles above Morgantown.

“It’s pathetic!” he said. “I’ve been fussing about this litter for 20 years. Seems like every weekend, right when we are coming out to fish, it’s flushed through the dam, and there it is.”

Dominion Post