Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jefferson County Port Plan May Actually Float

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jefferson County Port Plan May Actually Float

Article excerpt

HERCULANEUM * A Mississippi River port has long been touted as a way to boost Jefferson County's economy, but getting the sought- after barge traffic remained elusive.

Now the project is moving closer to reality. Next on the checklist to bring the port plan to fruition: barge parking lots and a loading dock.

Both need approval from the Army Corps of Engineers. Also, Herculaneum has yet to grant a business license to Riverview Commerce Park, where in the meantime bargeloads of frac sand have been loaded since September on 18 acres leased from Doe Run Co.

Jefferson County organized a port authority decades ago, but its efforts have been stymied by two factors: no place to build a port, and no good routes to connect the river to nearby Interstate 55.

Solutions to those problems have emerged in recent years. The end of smelting at the Doe Run lead plant in Herculaneum opened up riverfront land, and the Joachim Creek Bridge opened in 2012, providing the sought-after interstate connection. Other sites in Pevely and Crystal City are expected to be part of the project.

The Jefferson County Port Authority got $600,000 in state money to build a fleeting area essentially a parking lot for barges where the port authority hopes to load and unload barges and make it a turnaround point for barges coming from New Orleans, according to an initial proposal.

That plan called for building concrete piers and running steel cables across the river's shore and into the water to tie up as many as 60 barges, arranged in a configuration of six wide by 10 long.

But residents who own waterfront property fought a proposed location for the fleeting area near their properties in the northern part of Herculaneum, even hiring a maritime lawyer to write a letter on their behalf.

The Coast Guard and some in the river industry also raised concerns, saying that location could be an impediment to navigating the Mississippi, said Pat Lamping, executive director of the county's Economic Development Corporation. The port authority falls under the corporation's umbrella.

On Wednesday, the port authority board voted to pull that proposal from consideration. Instead, it will seek approval for three fleeting areas for 55 barges with a smaller number of barges in the area that caused worry, Lamping said.

"Our plans are to substantially reduce the number of barges in the northern area," Lamping said, saying the board took very seriously the concerns of the residents. He said the fleeting areas could be operating by the end of the year.

Troy Cardona, a Jefferson County judge who has lived along the river for more than 20 years, welcomed the revised plan. Cardona, was one of roughly 40 property owners who worried about the fleeting area's proposed location. He said he hopes it will be "considerate" of people who live there and who enjoy the riverfront and bluff areas. …

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