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

Manchin Opposes Trump’s Mine Safety Nominee

Sep 27, 2017
Courtesy office of Sen. Manchin

West Virginia Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin will not support the Trump administration’s nominee to lead the federal agency in charge of mine safety. 

Manchin said in a statement that he will not support David Zatezalo to lead the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA. Zatezalo, a Wheeling, West Virginia, resident and former coal company executive, was named as Trump’s pick for the post in early September. 

Manchin said that after reviewing Zatezalo’s qualifications and safety record during his time in the coal industry, he is “not convinced that Mr. Zatezalo is suited to oversee the federal agency that implements and enforces mine safety laws and standards.”

Facebook Founder Visits Rural Kentucky Schools

Sep 26, 2017
Bruce Parsons

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was in West Virginia and Kentucky over the weekend to see some innovative ways that schools are using new technology.

Zuckerberg has been traveling the country working on his New Year’s resolution to speak with people in every state. On Sunday, he met with educators and students from across Eastern Kentucky.

Students showed Zuckerberg a small mobile house, called a tiny home, that they built in a high school shop class. He also toured a drone assembly lab and took a moment to play a virtual reality video game with some students who designed it.

Photos by Kara Lofton, illustration by Jesse Wright, WVPB

Harvey. Irma. Maria. The hurricane season’s super-charged storms have highlighted the importance of disaster planning, and the aftermath offers a fresh lesson in just how long and difficult recovery can be.

Communities in the Ohio Valley, some still recovering from flash floods themselves, are looking at ways to prepare for what emergency management professionals warn is an era of more frequent extreme weather. 

It’s time, experts say, to get ready for the new normal.


Nicole Erwin | Ohio Valley ReSource

Talks on renegotiating NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, are set for later this month and farm country is concerned about the potential fallout from a trade dispute. Pork producers are especially nervous about the implications of a threat from President Trump to place a 20 percent tariff on Mexican food imports.

"Mexico is one of the largest markets for pork from the United States,” said Jimmy Tosh, owner of Tosh Farms, the 24th largest pork production company in the country. “I think if Mexico doesn't get favorable treatment we may have a 20 percent tariff imposed on our pork going to Mexico."


Mary Meehan

Edwin Hall is dressed in a footed onesie covered in the pastel shades of monkeys and hippos. Although Edwin’s just seven weeks old he already tells his mom when he’s hungry with a sharp and persistent yelp.

Soon after he gets her attention, Edwin is practicing his sucking technique. His mom, Sarah, with the dazed look of the sleep deprived, talks with a La Leche League volunteer at the Madison County, Kentucky, Health Department about some breastfeeding challenges.


MSHA

Lawmakers and union leaders are raising concerns about the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration’s practices amid an increase in coal fatalities.  

West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin asked MSHA for more information after receiving what he calls “alarming” reports about how the agency is implementing its new Compliance Assistance Program.

In a September 7th letter, Manchin wrote that he’s heard of miners being denied the ability to assign a representative to accompany MSHA inspectors and that those inspectors have been instructed to leave their credentials behind before inspecting a mine.


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jon Fleshman

Another breakdown at an aging lock and dam has halted river traffic on the Ohio in western Kentucky. It’s the second such interruption in less than a year for a stretch of river that carries some 90 million tons of cargo annually.

“A lot of commerce does go through that section and delays cost the industry money,” Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District public affairs officer Carol Labashosky said. “That’s a very, very important, crucial spot on the Ohio River.”

Nicole Erwin

Jacob Goodman drove toward a soybean field in western Kentucky in hopes of seeing something different. Most of the 2,500 acres of soybeans his family farms here in Fulton County haven’t been looking so good, but trees that line Running Slough River protect this plot.

“Where I’m gonna take you to right now, we have one field that hasn’t been affected,” he said. 

It’s been a week since he last checked this area. Goodman jumped out of the truck and approached a plant.


Rebecca Kiger

It’s been nearly one month since President Trump told a group of reporters he was declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency.

"The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I am saying, officially, right now, it is an emergency,”  the president said at his golf resort in New Jersey on August 10.

But in the weeks that have passed, health officials and addiction treatment specialists in the Ohio Valley states hardest hit by the epidemic said they have not heard from the administration and are still waiting to see details of an emergency plan.


MSHA

A rash of fatal coal mining accidents in the Ohio Valley region pushed the nation’s total number of mining deaths to a level not seen since 2015, sparking concern among safety advocates.

Already this year 12 miners have died on the job in the U.S., compared to eight fatalities in all of 2016. Two miners were killed in Kentucky and six in West Virginia.

Coal Country Tech Job Program Heads For New Round

Aug 30, 2017
Benny Becker

Last summer Melissa Anderson was unemployed and trying to keep her Pike County, Kentucky, home from falling into foreclosure.

“I built it,” she said. “And, you know, for me to lose that home would have been devastating.”

Anderson was among more than 800 people who applied for a little more than 50 trainee positions with TechHire Eastern Kentucky. The government-supported program pays participants to learn computer code and create phone apps. TechHire aimed to jumpstart tech jobs in the economically struggling region and diversify the job base in coal country.


Southwings and Vivian Stockman

The Perry County Public Library in Hazard, Kentucky, lies along Black Gold Boulevard -- a name that nods to the wealth the coal from these hills has generated. On a recent Tuesday evening, however, the library was the venue for a hearing about the full costs of extracting that coal.

A team from the National Academy of Sciences visited to hear what the public had to say about  health impacts of surface mining.

Appalachian Health Falling Further Behind

Aug 24, 2017
Mountain Comprehensive Care

A new report shows just how far Appalachia has fallen behind the rest of the country on key health measures such as rates of cancer, heart disease and infant mortality. Researchers say the region’s health gap is growing and they hope the data they’ve compiled will spur new approaches to health care.  

The 400-page report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, and the Appalachian Regional Commission used all publicly available data to show where people are sick and just how sick they are throughout the 13-state Appalachian region.


Opioid Emergency: What The Ohio Valley Needs To Combat Crisis

Aug 21, 2017
Rebecca Kiger

The opioid crisis gripping the Ohio Valley is now, according to President Donald Trump, a national emergency. But more than a week after the president made that announcement, state and local health officials in the region told the Ohio Valley ReSource that they have little information about what that emergency declaration actually means, or what additional tools it might provide.


Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

The country’s newest Republican governor is, like President Donald Trump, a billionaire businessman, a political outsider, and a fan of the coal industry. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a former coal company owner, was elected as a Democrat but switched parties with a surprise announcement at a Trump rally in West Virginia.

Both Trump and Justice campaigned on promises to bring coal mining jobs back to the region. Now Justice wants the president to prop up the flagging coal industry with federally-funded incentives for power companies to purchase coal from Appalachia.


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