Ohio Valley ReSource

A regional journalism collaborative reporting on economic and social change in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.

With support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, seven public media outlets across the three states have partnered to form the ReSource in order to strengthen news coverage of the area’s most important issues.

Janet Butler, USFWS

The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge’s namesake is apparent upon stepping outside its visitors center in Williamstown, West Virginia. Gazing past bird feeders and the forested bank of the Ohio River, a skinny island looms large.

“So Buckley Island is right across the water from us,” says Michael Schramm, visitor services manager at the refuge.

 

USDA

  The federal government is considering a work requirement for some people who get food assistance through SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. A new study uses Kentucky as an example of what that change could mean for the country.

 

Courtsey CVI

A congressional subcommittee will hear testimony Thursday in support of a bill that would help clean up and redevelop surface mine land. The bill enjoys bipartisan support, but still faces hurdles.

Sydney Boles/Ohio Valley ReSource

When Seth Long first began experimenting with maple syrup production, he tapped hollow pegs called spiles into individual trees, collected drips of sap in milk jugs, and carried each gallon down the the steep mountainside on foot.

Now, Long rides an open-air buggy up muddy switchbacks to a 500-gallon collection tank from which translucent blue tubes branch out like arteries. There, gallons of sap accumulate from Long’s 270 maple trees before they flow through those tubes 900 feet down the mountain to Long’s grant-funded sugar shack.

 

Mary Meehan

he Ohio Valley has received nearly $60 million in additional federal funds to help combat the opioid epidemic.

Kentucky received $16,431,436, Ohio $29,122,692 and West Virginia $14,630,361.  

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the funds as a supplement to the first-year State Opioid Response, or SOR, grant awards.

 

RWJF.org

A new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation confirms the significant health challenges in the Ohio Valley, including premature deaths.

It also lays out the often overlooked connection between health and housing.

The report presents a county-by-county breakdown of health outcomes and reveals significant gaps between the healthiest counties and the least healthy counties.

The Trump Administration released on Monday details of a 2020 federal budget proposal that includes cutting funds allotted for a new federal prison in eastern Kentucky. The funds would be redirected to other law-enforcement or natural security priorities, potentially including a wall at the southern U.S. border.

The proposed cut rebukes arguments made by Congressman Hal Rogers, the powerful Kentucky Republican who has promoted federal prisons as economic development for communities struggling with high unemployment.

 

Liam Niemeyer/Ohio Valley ReSource

As the Trump administration’s trade talks continue with China and other countries, farmers are feeling the pain from the president’s year-long trade war. Tariffs on agricultural goods are compounding problems caused by low crop prices and over-production, and small farmers are suffering the most.

Mary Meehan

The automaker Toyota announced Thursday major new investments in facilities in Kentucky and West Virginia to increase production of hybrid vehicles. Toyota plans to invest about $750 million in facilities in five states with almost half of that going to its plants in Kentucky and West Virginia.

Toyota’s plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, already the largest Toyota facility in the world, will get a $238 million boost.

J. Tyler Franklin

Amazon employee Andre Woodson made his way among yellow bins traveling through a vast warehouse filled with boxes and envelopes to be packed, sorted and shipped. In Amazon-speak, this is a “fulfillment center.”

“Our Jeffersonville, Indiana, fulfillment center is about 1.2 million square feet, which is equivalent to about 28 football fields,” Woodson explained.

Thinkstock

  Rural jails in Kentucky are increasingly relying on income derived from payments for holding state prisoners in county facilities, according to a new report by a think tank that advocates for criminal justice reform.

To address overcrowding, states make payments to counties to hold convicted prisoners and pretrial detainees. States save money, and counties get an extra influx of cash.

 

OVR

  A new study finds more than 90 percent of the nation’s coal ash repositories are leaking unsafe levels of toxic chemicals into nearby groundwater. More than 30 coal plants in the Ohio Valley are on the list.

 Coal ash is formed when coal is burned at power plants to create electricity. It’s one of the largest waste streams in the country and full of toxic pollutants like lead, arsenic and mercury.

Mary Meehan

Gillette, Wyoming, isn’t the kind of place you just happen to come across.

“It’s about a four hour drive through vast, unimpacted, wide, sweeping plains,” said Matt Gray, a professor at University of Wyoming in Laramie, explaining the trek from his office to his clients.

Plains, he said, “and lots and lots of antelope.”

Wikimedia Commons

Kentuckians wouldn’t need a permit to carry concealed firearms under a bill that is nearing final passage in the state legislature. It now only has to pass out of the state House of Representatives and be signed by Gov. Matt Bevin.

Currently, concealed-carry holders have to take an eight-hour training course and have a background check to receive a permit.

Rep. Charles Booker, a Democrat from Louisville, said he was worried that the measure would lead to more gun violence.

Vivian Livingood is the mayor of Gilbert, a southern West Virginia  town of under 500 people that has struggled for years without reliable internet. Livingood said that hampers Gilbert’s tourism, businesses and schools.

“We get kicked off the internet here every two minutes, and that’s if we can afford the internet,” Livingood said. “And it’s just pitiful service. It’s not fast.”

The Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, OH

 On the night of July 24, 1916, a nautral gas explosion near Cleveland trapped workers in a waterworks tunnel beneath Lake Erie. Rescuers sent in to recover the trapped men were themselves by "noxious fumes"
The Cleveland authorities knew just who to call: Garrett Morgan, an inventor who had recently given a demonstration of his breathing contraption.

Morgan arrived at the scene still wearing his pajamas. With his strange breathing device strapped to his face, Morgan, along with his brother and another brave volunteer, descended into the muddy disaster site.

New ARC Grants Combine Economic Recovery And Addiction Recovery

Feb 22, 2019
Rebecca Kiger

The Appalachian Regional Commission announced Thursday another $22.8 million in funding to 33 projects aimed at revitalizing economies in places affected by the decline in the coal industry.

Courtsy of EnerBlu

When battery manufacturer EnerBlu announced it would suspend plans for a new factory in Pikeville, Kentucky, the company used an intriguing phrase. “Unexpected geopolitical factors,” the company said, had soured the deal.  

  According to a former executive at the company, those factors tied the rural eastern Kentucky development project to one of the world’s largest companies, the Saudi Arabian royal family, and the international uproar resulting from the murder of a prominent journalist.

Since it announced in 2017 its plan to build a $372 million

 

Aaron Payne/Ohio Valley ReSource

Sue Meeks has worked with children for years as a registered nurse.

Meeks manages the family navigator program at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine in Athens, Ohio.

Several years ago, she started noticing three and four-year-olds coming into the program with certain distinctive behaviors.

Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it will move forward with a series of actions to regulate toxic fluorinated chemicals, including proposing drinking water limits by the end of this year. But environment and public health advocates say that timeline is unacceptably slow given the health risks and extent of contamination.

In its long-awaited “PFAS Action Plan,” EPA laid out a series of actions to address the widespread contamination of fluorinated PFAS chemicals.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today said it will move forward with a series of actions to regulate toxic fluorinated chemicals, including proposing drinking water limits by the end of this year.

In its long-awaited “PFAS Action Plan,” EPA laid out a series of actions to address the widespread contamination of fluorinated PFAS chemicals.

Wikimedia Commons

Infectious disease experts say poor practices in vaccine delivery are the likely cause of infections reported by some people who received vaccine shots at their places of employment in the Ohio Valley.

Glynis Board/Ohio Valley ReSource

Inside Winkin’ Sun Hemp Company in downtown Wheeling, West Virginia, store owner Doug Flight tries to position himself in front of a camera crew.

His experience with growing and selling hemp spans years. But memorizing lines for what he says could be the first hemp TV commercial in the state is another issue.

“I know, I grow,” Flight says to the camera. “Is that it?” Flight asked.

“It’s ‘I know because I grow,’” someone with the camera crew said back.

 

Jessie Wright/WVPB

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will begin holding full hearing this week with a new top Democrat: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. 

 Manchin’s ascension to lead the Senate committee devoted to energy issues drew concern from environmental groups and more left-leaning members of his own party who fear the centrist Democrat may not be a strong climate advocate.

Nicole Erwin/Ohio Valley ReSource

The federal government shutdown is over but some Ohio Valley farmers are still dealing with its effects as they try to sign up for federal relief payments and find ways to substitute for  missing information caused by a delay in important government reports.

Black Lung Clinics Call For Action

Jan 29, 2019
Ohio Valley ReSource

In the wake of an NPR and Frontline investigation into the surge in black lung disease, a coalition of black lung clinics is calling for action from federal regulators. The government’s top mine safety official says he has no plans to change rules on dust exposure.

The National Coalition of Black Lung Clinics said in a statement that the federal government has more than enough data on the risks of current mining practices to justify implementing new measures.

Glynis Board

Cyndi Kirkhart has some 26,000 square feet of warehouse space at the Facing Hunger Food Bank in Huntington, West Virginia, where she is executive director. That sounds like a lot of space. But very little of it is cooler space.

"This is the only cooler we have,” Kirkhart said, stepping into a walk-in cooler the size of a large closet filled with half-gallon containers of milk. “This is Kentucky milk, and this is West Virginia.”

By Mary Meehan

CEO Mike Halligan pushed open the door to a huge warehouse serving 50 Kentucky counties. Pallets of beans, pineapple, bottled water, and rice wrapped in a clear plastic stretch to the top tier of the scaffolding, which warehouse workers call “the sky”.

Similar pantries serve 2.5 million people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, of SNAP, benefits across the Ohio Valley.

Sydney Boles/Ohio Valley ReSource

Nancy and Rich Potter had the kind of marriage that made other couples jealous. He’d take her on spontaneous trips. She’d wear her Daisy Dukes just for him.

Joyce Birman said her late husband, George, made a terrible first impression. It was his apology for it that made her fall for him, hard.

Vickie Salyers’ husband, Gene, loved hunting and fishing, but he loved being a father and grandfather most of all.

 

FSA Offices Reopen To Confusion and Disarray

Jan 17, 2019
USDA

The United States Department of Agriculture is reopening Farm Service Agency offices across the country Thursday, Friday and Tuesday. Agency staff will help process loans affected by the federal government shutdown. There are reports that many Ohio Valley farmers showing up were turned away.

The Farm Service Agency office in Mayfield, Kentucky, is so quiet you can hear the tick of the Department of Agriculture-branded clock on the wall. Eleven employees usually make up this busy office. Only three were called in Thursday morning.

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