Regulators ensure safe navigation and protection of aquatic resources during Beckjord Power Plant cleanup

USACE - Louisville District
Published March 1, 2022
Updated: March 1, 2022

In February 2021, a smokestack, associated with the demolition of the former Beckjord Generating Station, toppled into the Ohio River at mile marker 453 in New Richmond, Ohio. The waste debris in the river caused concerns from the local communities, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District, under their regulatory authorities for Waters of the U.S., quickly responded ordering the contractors to clean it up and complete compliance actions required by USACE.

“It is not every day that something like this occurs in our program,” said Todd Hagman, Louisville District project manager and biologist. “The Regulatory Division evaluates permit applications for essentially all work that occurs in “waters of the United States” that are regulated by the Corps pursuant to Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.” 

USACE first received a complaint regarding material found along the Ohio River streambanks associated with the demolition of the plant. While investigating the complaint, the team contacted the responsible party regarding the material and the need to clean up the shoreline. That is when the project literally, and figuratively, “blew up,” according to Hagman.   

USACE was notified that the demolition of the smokestack, which was planned to fall on land, instead actually fell into the Ohio River. Therefore, a compliance order was issued by USACE in April 2021 requiring an action plan outlining the corrective measures that would be used to remove all debris.

“The first goal was to determine risks associated with navigational safety,” Hagman said. “Second was to determine the location of material and develop plan for removal and to ensure safety for recreational boating during the marine salvage operation.”

Cleanup work first began in May 2021 on the land-based portion and the cleanup fully concluded, with the final debris being retrieved in December 2021.

Throughout those seven months, the district’s regulatory team worked closely with the permittee to ensure compliance throughout the cleanup process.  

“We had to review and approve several iterations of their action plans for the cleanup,” Hagman said. “We had to ensure the cleanup efforts proposed wouldn’t impact the aquatic resources or pose a hazard to navigation. We also reviewed weekly reports and visited the site throughout to ensure operations were compliant. By working with them through the process we were able to see this to a close with everything being safely removed from the river.” 

The contractor conducted a final sonar survey following completion of the corrective measures and confirmed that all material had been removed from the river based on a comparison between the initial and final surveys. Then, USACE independently verified what the sonar survey depicted.

In January 2022, the Louisville District Regulatory staff conducted a site visit to the Beckjord Generation Plant to confirm that the Department of Army permit non-compliance issues were fully resolved, and USACE determined the permittee had successfully resolved the noncompliance issues, resulting in the enforcement action being closed. 

“This successful compliance action protects aquatic resources and navigation in the Ohio River and will serve as a deterrent for other unauthorized actions adversely affecting the river,” said Eric Reusch, Louisville District Regulatory Division chief.