East Liverpool workers take care to keep Ohio River flowing

The river and its critical role really aren't recognized by people who don’t live near it

The Ohio River, running through East Liverpool, is a major leg of the journey for goods moving around the country.

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio (WKBN) – The Ohio River, running through East Liverpool, is a major leg of the journey for goods moving around the country.

Through the lock at New Cumberland, just south of Wellsville, companies ship coal from around the country. Heating oil and gasoline move in from refineries. Grain and seed start their journey around the world.

Steve Price with APO Towing said the river and its critical role really aren’t recognized by people who don’t live near it.

“We so much with so little equipment and manpower it kind of gets overlooked,” Price said.

If the river ices over, all of that movement grinds to a halt. New Cumberland Lockmaster Willie Maynard said ripple effect would be great.

“Industry would be at a halt. Power plants wouldn’t be able to get coal in to supply heat and energy and light to housing,” Maynard said.

For more than 30 years, Maynard has watched over the river. In the winter, that means fighting the ice. The bulkhead hoist can shut down the flow of the river entirely. The ice has to be kept cleared away.

“One time in 2015, it was so thick we couldn’t get the gates open. But finally, between the bulkhead hoist and a towboat we have come help, we were able to get through,” Maynard said.

Steve and William Price are the father-son team behind AMO Towing. When they aren’t pushing petroleum up from Kentucky, they help keep the Ohio River channel free of ice.

William Price has seen the river ice over completely. That ice shears off six-inch steel and takes barges along for the ride. Once, the Prices were called on to catch two runaway petroleum barges the ice tore off the Ohio Edison docks.

“We got the boat and caught the two loads before they got to the dam,” Price said. “If they had gone down on the dam and broke loose, they would have had a big oil spill. Who knows what would have happened.”

Sixty years of piloting from one end of the river to the other has taught the Prices to respect the flowing water.

“I’ve seen this river freeze up. I’ve seen it make 12 inches of ice. Ice runouts, if it starts raining, with the ground frozen, the ice will start to move as the river starts flowing,” Price said.

The hope is with hard work and preparation, the ice will move on and leave the boats, barges and dam in peace.

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