Locks And Dams: How The Condition Of Water Infrastructure Threatens Economic Growth

Dec 7, 2016


Captain Matthew Baumgartner checks a monitor in the wheelhouse of the D.L. Johnson as it moves a coal barge along the Ohio River.
Credit Ryan Loew / For Keystone Crossroads

Moving goods on barges is big business, but the lock system those barges rely on teeters on the brink of failure.

Deckhands Jeremy Groves and Dustin Frazee descend from the towboat D.L. Johnson to inspect their cargo: a single barge of coal. They circle the barge, walking along its edges — the gunnels — to make sure everything looks okay. Satisfied, they pick up kevlar lines and loop them around the barge’s timberheads. A 40-ton winch aboard the D.L. Johnson pulls the barge snug against the boat. That way, the cargo won’t wander as it’s pushed down the upper reaches of the Ohio River.

Captain Matthew Baumgartner watches from the wheelhouse. What they do on the water is important, he said.

“We move a lot of coal for power plants and steel mills, you know, keeps everybody in electricity.”


Keystone Crossroads is a statewide public media initiative reporting on the challenges facing Pennsylvania's cities. WPSU is a participating station.