News Column

Declaring Missouri River a Marine Highway Carries Benefits

April 26, 2013

Marshall White

Declaring the Missouri River between Kansas City and Sioux City, Iowa, to be a Marine Highway could benefit the region by promoting navigation and economic development regionally, officials say.

The designation allows ports and terminals to receive technical assistance from the U.S. Maritime Administration, a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

"Including the Missouri River north of Kansas City as part of the Marine Highway Corridor makes sense from both an economic and environmental perspective, as well as a transportation viewpoint," said Congressman Sam Graves, R-Mo.

"This designation would help boost economic growth and navigation efforts along this critical waterway, and help move Missouri goods to the world market. I urge the Transportation Department to swiftly approve the request."

Ron Blakley, an area farmer and vice president of the St. Joseph Port Authority, said he began exploring the possibility of a Marine Highway designation with Mr. Graves back in April 2011.

"If it happens, it will open up access to $74 million in funds available for infrastructure and freight promotions along the Marine Highway system," Mr. Blakley said.

Congressman Blane Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., organized a letter of support for the designation. Mr. Graves, along with nine other members of Congress from Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, joined in signing the letter.

The letter also supports adding the M-94 corridor, known as the Upper Mississippi Connector, stretching from St. Louis to St. Paul on the Mississippi River, to the Marine Highway system.

"Both the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers are invaluable economic resources for our region, and securing this critical designation from the Maritime Administration would expand our ability in moving products from the Midwest and distributing to the world," Mr. Luetkemeyer said.

"With the support of the entire Missouri delegation and members from Iowa and Illinois, hopefully we can get recognition for the Kansas City and Upper Mississippi connectors so we can promote navigation on these two corridors and enhance economic growth."

The Port of Kansas City filed an official application for the designation.

With the designation, ports all along the corridor would be able to use barges to reduce truck freight along Missouri highways, Mr. Blakley said. And that will save Missouri taxpayers a lot of money, he added.

The drought left the St. Joseph port with no Missouri River barge traffic in 2012.

___

(c)2013 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services





Source: Copyright St. Joseph News-Press (MO) 2013