Ohio Valley ReSource

WKU Public Radio is part of a new regional journalism collaborative known as the Ohio Valley ReSource.  It's made up of public media stations across Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.  The collaborative will focus on the changing economy in the region and its effect on jobs, healthcare and infrastructure. 

Each station taking part in the Ohio Valley ReSource is hiring a reporter to contribute to the effort.  WKU Public Radio's reporter is Becca Schimmel, who will be based in the Bowling Green newsroom. 

The Ohio Valley ReSource is made possible by member stations and through a grant from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting. 

Ways to Connect

Jeff Young

Political leaders in West Virginia and Kentucky are joining a coalition of states threatening to sue California over a program the state is pushing that would drop investments in coal.

This week the attorney general of West Virginia joined 11 other Republican attorneys general and the governor of Kentucky in signing a letter to the commissioner of the California Department of Insurance. The department wants any insurance companies licensed in California to divest from fossil fuels – especially coal. Many of the companies licensed in California are also licensed in many other states throughout the U.S.

HopAlong Farm in Howard, OH

The acres devoted to growing hops doubled in the U.S. in just the last five years and the trade group Hop Growers of America estimates that 95 percent of that market belongs to farmers along the West Coast. But the craft beer craze is changing the direction for hop farms by generating demand for more locally sourced ingredients, and Ohio Valley farmers like Wes Cole want in on the action.

On a small incline behind Cole’s homestead in Hickory, Kentucky, sits a tenth of an acre plot of Mt. Hood hops, a variety that’s tolerant to the crop disease downy mildew.

“This spot is about as windy as it could be. If you don't believe me, try folding up a tarp out here. It will make you lose your religion,” Cole said, as he explained why a cool, dry location is critical in hop production. The plants will grow vertically, often requiring 25 feet or more of support in thick twine for the bines, or flexible stems, to wrap themselves around as they produce the cone-shaped grains used for bittering beer.


Mary Meehan

Dressed in crisp blue scrubs, Certified Nurse Midwife JoAnne Burris walks briskly, the click of her sensible clogs a counterpoint to smooth jazz in the hall.

The University of Kentucky Midwife Clinic, with its large, color prints of newborns on earth-tone walls, still has that new furniture smell. But word-of-mouth already has the waiting room full.

Inside Exam Room 3 Emily and Johnathan Robertson wait to hear their baby’s heartbeat. And there it is, the echoing sound of a strong fetal heart: Whoosh, ump, whoosh, ump, whoosh ump.

“Best part of the appointment,” Burris said, “every time.”

Roxy Todd

“I’d love to be able to stay here,” said 32-year-old West Virginian Mark Combs. “The people are great. But it’s just dying. If you want to succeed you’ve gotta leave.”

Mark is an actor and an Iraqi war veteran. He thinks there has to be a better life, or at least better economic opportunities, elsewhere. He decided to head west for Los Angeles.

“I think the job market is so much larger out there than what it is here that jobs are going to be really easy to come by,” he said before he set out.

U.S. Department of Energy

Paducah, Kentucky, is home to USEC, a Department of Energy uranium enrichment facility that operated for 50 years until being decommissioned in 2013. Just across the Ohio River lies the Honeywell corporation’s Metropolis Works, the nation’s only uranium conversion plant.

Former State Sen. Bob Leeper thought it made sense to build on that existing capacity. So he introduced a bill to end the state’s decades-old moratorium on nuclear power. That was ten years ago.

“People weren't sure what they wanted to do with this bill,” Leeper said at a ceremonial signing event for a law named the Leeper Act in his honor. “They did the right thing in my opinion.”

Nicole Erwin

When President Trump picked the Ohio Valley as the setting to promote his infrastructure plan, he also drew attention to an overlooked part of the nation’s transportation system: inland waterways. Agriculture, energy, and manufacturing interests all depend heavily on the Ohio’s aging navigation system.

The president’s speech in Cincinnati cheered many industry leaders who have long been frustrated by costly delays caused by failing locks and dams on the river. But some of the Trump administration’s ideas for changing how the country plans and pays for waterways projects have raised concerns among infrastructure experts.


Ohio Valley ReSource

With a speech planned for Cincinnati’s Ohio River waterfront, President Donald Trump has chosen a fitting venue to talk about infrastructure improvements. The Ohio Valley is home to aging highways, bridges, and dams, poor drinking water systems, and weak internet service for many rural residents.

A report from the American Society of Civil Engineers found that Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia need billions of dollars for improvements to drinking and wastewater systems and have more than 700 dams considered “high hazards.”   


Malcolm Wilson

Nearly half of the people living in rural parts of United States don’t have access to broadband internet, the high speed connection required for common uses many of us take for granted. Government and survey data show that in 65 counties across Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, the majority of residents don’t have access to broadband--that’s one-quarter of all the counties in the three states. 

With the internet continuing to grow in importance for school, work, and for everyday life, many disconnected rural communities see their lack of internet access as an existential threat. Some communities hope that by banding together, communities can find ways to bring fast internet to places it’s never been.

Kenn W. Kiser, morgueFile.com

Many political leaders in the Ohio Valley approve of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. But surveys indicate that public opinion across the region varies, with a slight majority saying they’d like the country to stay the course on climate change.

According to a Yale University survey, the majority of people in every state — including coal-friendly Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia — support U.S. participation in the Paris agreement.

  

Jeanna Glisson

Jeanna Glisson has two lives: her life before August 20th, 2007, and her life after. That day is so vivid, Glisson can still hear the sounds of her son’s feet coming down the stairs.

“I remember Derek when he got up that morning, he was on the phone talking to my dad. He was excited,” Glisson said.

It was the first day of harvest at Swift Farms in Murray, Kentucky, and Derek couldn’t wait to get to the corn fields. Glisson remembers it feeling like the hottest day of the year. It was a Monday, she said.

“He looked forward to it. I remember him getting in the shower. And then after that...” Her voice trails off. She remembers that the phone rang. It was her brother. Derek had been hurt. Before Glisson or any of the emergency responders could get to the farm, it was too late.

Trump Budget Cuts Would Hit Trump Country Hardest

May 25, 2017
Robert McGraw/WOUB

The true costs of the deep cuts in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would fall disproportionately on many of the poor and working class people in the Ohio Valley region who helped to elect him, according to lawmakers and policy analysts.

Deep cuts to subsidized health care, food aid, disability assistance, and addiction treatment services would have the biggest effect in parts of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia with some of the nation’s greatest needs for these safety net programs.

Additionally, some federal agencies supporting new economic development in the communities hardest hit by the coal industry’s downturn would be sharply reduced or eliminated under the White House budget plan.


Mary Meehan

Eight protesters along a major thoroughfare in Lexington hoisted signs shaped like tombstones with sayings such as “RIP Trumpcare.” They were hoping Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and U.S. Rep. Andy Barr would catch a glimpse of the demonstration on their way to a press event at Valvoline headquarters down the road. Against the steady hum of streaming cars came a few honks. A middle-aged guy on a Harley gunned his bike through the intersection while laying on the horn.

“I don’t know if they are honking for us or if someone actually got in their way,” said Peter Wedlund, who is wearing a black Grim Reaper cloak.

Even in the very red Ohio Valley region a growing number of people are protesting the American Health Care Act, which would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Ashton Marra, WVPB

Trump administration officials have been visiting parts of the country affected by the opioid addiction crisis, including the Ohio Valley region. The administration called it a “listening tour,” and they got an earful in events marked by protests and controversies.

Some people working to combat the epidemic in the region say they’re concerned about the potential effects of the administration’s approach, including proposed health care changes and a possible return to harsher criminal prosecutions for drug charges.

Last October then-candidate Donald Trump laid out his plan to tackle the opioid epidemic. In a campaign event he focused on stopping the flow of drugs, issuing harsher trafficking penalties, and supporting addiction treatment.


Mending Mining Country: Three Ways Trump Could Help Miners And Coal Communities

May 15, 2017
Alexandra Kanik

At a March ceremony to sign an executive order reversing Obama-era environmental regulations, coal miners were arranged on stage around President Donald Trump as he took up his pen.

“You know what it says, right?” Trump asked the miners. “You’re going back to work.”

From his campaign rallies to White House events, President Donald Trump has surrounded himself with coal miners and promised to restore their collapsed industry.

Peabody Energy, Inc., via Wikimedia Commons

Can coal make a comeback? That’s the title of a new report from Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. Researchers there analyzed the factors leading to the coal industry’s sharp decline over the past six years and assessed the Trump administration’s efforts to revive it.

The report casts doubt on the chances for a significant increase in production and employment, and downplays the role of environmental regulations and the so called “War on Coal,” a common rhetorical theme for coal country politicians and President Trump.

Trevor Houser with the economic research company Rhodium Group is a co-author of the Columbia study. His report begins with analysis of what’ was driving the dramatic decline in the coal industry since 2011.


Pages