New Barge Launched For Living Lands & Waters

Waterways Journal
4 July 2011
By Jeff L. Yates

Chad Pregracke and Living Lands & Waters employees "shove" the new barge onto the launch way.

Life will soon become a little more comfortable for Chad Pregracke and his staff at Living Lands & Waters. The river clean-up organization has a new barge that will house its operational headquarters and mobile classrooms.

The 150- by 35- by seven-foot deck barge was launched June 20 at Owensboro, Ky., where it was constructed by Yager Enterprises. It was paid for with corporate donations from AEP River Operations, Cargill Marine & Terminal Inc., Caterpillar, Archer-Daniels-Midland, Ingram Barge Company and Yager Enterprises. Yager president Jim Yager said the barge was a custom design between his firm and AEP's Belle Chase (La.) Shipyard, and was completed in only seven weeks. It was first proposed about a year ago, and when funding had been secured, construction began in April, he said.

Jeff Keifer, AEP's director of boat operations support in Chesterfield, Mo., said that within hours of launching, the barge was placed in an AEP tow for prompt delivery to National Maintenance & Repair at Hartford, Ill. There, members of the Carpenters' District Council of Greater St. Louis and Vicinity will construct a superstructure that will include office space and living quarters for the LLW crew, along with classrooms for teaching students, educators and interested citizens about the function and importance of the inland waterways system and how the environment is affected by the tons of debris and flotsam that accumulate along the shore or on the bottom. LLW project manager Roger Mouser said exterior walls for the deckhouse are already under construction, with labor being donated by carpenters working in the union's apprentice training center.

Moments prior to the launch, Pregracke thanked all the corporate sponsors for their support in developing and constructing the new vessel, which will replace an overworked barge that has hosted 1,700 teachers and 70,000 volunteers over the years. The current towboat River Cleanup, a 36-foot, 400 hp. vessel, will also be replaced when LLW puts the recently purchased Jane F in operation. The 52-foot, 1,000 hp. vessel was recently purchased from Fullen Dock & Warehouse in Memphis.

LLW had a very humble beginning as a one-man army against riverbank pollution in 1997 when, after receiving an $8,700 grant from Alcoa in East Moline, Ill., 22-year-old Pregracke single-handedly removed more than 45,000 pounds of refuse from the Mississippi River. His enthusiasm and tenacity established the basis for a solid cleanup organization that now includes 11 full-time employees and an equipment base of four barges, a towboat, six debris-recovery boats, five trucks,
a semi tractor trailer, a crane and two skid loaders. He and his team travel to destinations along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers for up to nine months a year and have picked up and removed more than 6 million pounds of debris.

"I never thought I'd be launching a new barge," he exclaimed as he and his team gathered to give a ceremonial push to start the gleaming vessel down the launch ways into the Ohio River.