Location for port narrowed down

While still early in the process, the Heartland Port Authority's North Site One has emerged as the frontrunner for the port location, based on contractor reports.

A critical issues analysis conducted by Barr Engineering and a design basis memorandum created by Hanson Professional Services Inc. were presented Thursday to the Heartland Port Authority Commission.

The commission has identified three locations for potential developments: the South Site, North Site One and North Site Two.

Craig Bunger, senior civil engineer with Barr Engineering, said North Site One is currently looking like the best location because it has existing infrastructure and fewer permitting hurdles than the other sites.

North Site One is approximately 22 acres north of the Missouri River and currently owned by OCCI Inc. It is accessible from Highway 94.

The site has an existing storage area, dock, unpaved access road and equipment that can be used for barge loading and unloading, the Barr Engineering report states, which could mean cheaper development costs.

"From a qualitative perspective, and probably quantitative too, based on where we're at in the project, I would say there are advantages to having that infrastructure already in place," Bunger told the commission.

North Site One is located within unincorporated Callaway County, so zoning constraints wouldn't apply, Bunger said.

The critical issue with North Site One is it is located in a floodway, which could impact filling and permanent structures.

Ty Morris, vice president and senior geological engineer with Barr Engineering, said it is still early in the process, so plans for development could change.

"The thing to remember here is this is a marathon, not a 100-meter dash," Morris said. "Currently, based on the information we have right now I think North Site One is leading, but that doesn't mean that it's going to win, but it looks good. It looks better based on the information we have today."

The South Site, about 118 acres south of the Missouri River and accessible from No More Victims Road, is mostly located in a flood fringe area, but may be subject to wetlands and cultural resources impacting permit requirements and site use.

North Site Two, approximately three acres north of the Missouri River and directly east of Capital Sands, is located in a floodway and is smaller than the other two sites, but the existing infrastructure on neighboring property may be useful.

"There are definitely benefits and detractors to each of the sites, but the existing infrastructure at North Site One is pretty desirable, I think, compared to the South Site in particular," Bunger said.

According to the design basis memorandum provided by Greg Kelahan, a ports and harbor engineer at Hanson, the port would be looking at a phased development approach, with North Site One phase one costing about $3.9 million.

The design basis memorandum is a document summarizing the reasoning behind the port's construction concept design.

The port concepts are geared toward agri-bulk shipping leaving from Jefferson City, as that is what the market indicates will be the main driver of traffic to the port.

Kelahan said North Site One phase one would consist of working out an agreement with OCCI Inc., developing a new small-scale agri-bulk transload facility to allow for direct truck-to-barge loading but not on-site storage, and purchasing an excavator and crane.

North Site One phase two, totaling another $3.1 million, would include expanding the site's existing dock for increased capacity.

Bunger said the final reports, totaling more than 150 pages, will be available to the commission in the next week or two.

Those reports are needed to begin the process of writing grant applications due by the end of the year, said Roger Fischer, Heartland Port Authority chairman.

Fischer said he was satisfied with the reports and research produced by the contractors so far and hopes to have a better direction for where the port will be in October.

The Port Authority Commission also approved an administrative agreement for professional services with the newly formed Jefferson City Regional Economic Partnership, which was formed out of the Jefferson Area Chamber of Commerce, at Thursday's meeting.