Port Authority panel looks to refine potential port plan

The next step in trying to bring a Missouri River port to the Jefferson City area is to look for unforeseen problems in their potential plans, Heartland Port Authority members agreed Thursday.

In November, a working group of the port authority board was chosen to chart next steps for the project.

Roger Fisher, Port Authority chairman, and members Jason Branstetter, Jon Hensley and Harry Otto agreed Thursday to reduce the scope of the port proposal for the site known as the South Site.

The site, which covers about 118 acres south of the Missouri River, is accessible from No More Victims Road. In 2020, the Legislature and Gov. Mike Parson approved a measure to allow transferring the state-owned land, just east of the Ike Skelton Training Facility, to the port authority for the potential development of a Missouri River port.

The South Site is mostly located in a flood fringe area but may be subject to wetlands and cultural resources impacting permit requirements and site use.

Fischer said they are wanting to put together an application to be sent to the Corps of Engineers. He said the application could bring things to light that might be objectionable about that site that the board would need to consider.

Branstatter, who is operations manager at Capital Sand Company, said they'd send a conceptional drawing of what they're considering. Earlier this year, the first phase of development for the South Site called for building a new access road from Cortez Drive, putting in grain storage bins and truck dump pits as well as removing some existing river structure. The second phase would include putting in a work area of just more than 5 acres and a storage area of just less than 5 acres.

Once the application packet is sent to the Corps, they will put it out to public notice so any agency, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Missouri Department of Natural Resources or Missouri Department of Conservation, could provide feedback.

"This application doesn't mean we would build on this site," Branstatter said. "This is a way to see if there are unidentified concerns on that property."

Fischer said they hope to have a meeting with Barr Engineering, the authority's consultant on the site, in the next couple of weeks.

The board also decided to allow the working group to spend up to $4,000 to do any additional work that might be needed for the application. The work could include another flyover of the site with a drone. The first flyover was done in the spring when water levels were higher. The board suggested a flyover now could show potential problems that could only be seen when water levels were lower.

In other business Thursday, new board officers were chosen. Otto was elected to serve as chairman; Fischer was chosen as vice chairman. Hensley will serve as secretary, and Branstatter will be treasurer. They will assume the new positions in January.