Port Authority to look at future land, funding needs

A group of members of the Heartland Port Authority will be looking at what future steps the body needs to address, primarily focusing on purchasing land and funding sources to get the port up and running.

The Port Authority Board on Thursday designated Roger Fisher, Port Authority chairman, and members Jason Branstetter and Jon Hensley to serve on the group. They plan to meet and develop a report before the board’s next meeting Dec. 16.

Fisher, who represents Callaway County on the board, pointed out the Authority has to determine how to best use nearly $1 million in state transportation funds to create a Missouri River port near Jefferson City. Branstetter represents Cole County; Hensley represents Jefferson City.

The authority has received $961,994 from the Missouri Department of Transportation Capital Improvement Project Fund. The money can be used for things such as land acquisition, construction and terminal facility development. However, it cannot be used for operations and regular maintenance. The funds have to be used by the end of the fiscal year, which for the state is June 30.

“We also need to decide whether we want to do one or multiple ports and which locations we want to use,” Fisher said.

The three sites are:

• North Site One, which is approximately 22 acres north of the Missouri River and is currently owned by OCCI Inc.; it is accessible from Missouri 94.

• The South Site, which is 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 this state-owned land, just east of the Ike Skelton Training Facility, to the port authority for the potential development of a Missouri River port.

• North Site Two, which is approximately 3 acres north of the Missouri River and is owned by a private individual, is directly east of Capital Sand Company.

In August, the site designated North Site One was determined by the authority’s consultant, Barr Engineering, to be the best location of the three potential sites because it has existing infrastructure and fewer permitting hurdles. The critical issue with the site is that its located in a floodway, which could impact filling and permanent structures.

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.

North Side Two is located in a floodway and is smaller than the other two sites, but the existing infrastructure on neighboring property may be useful, according to port officials.

Board members also discussed what they said were positive responses they got after a meeting this week with several state agencies

State Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, organized the meeting and plans to have others regarding disaster preparedness and how ports like Heartland can be an instrument of aid when a major quake occurs along the New Madrid Fault.

“When that fault fails, the soil will liquefy and bridges and roads will become impassable,” Griffith said. “The only way to get aid and recovery to the affected areas will be by air and by water. The ports along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers will play a key role in the response to such a disaster.”

Board members said the meeting showed they had several allies, such as the State Emergency Management Agency and Missouri National Guard, who were interested in how they could help in making the port a reality. They also said the discussions also showed they needed to think about steps they needed to possibly take to make the port structurally sound to withstand an earthquake.