Potential first tenant of Missouri River port coming to Capital City

The first potential tenants of a proposed Missouri River port in Jefferson City will visit the Capital City in February to brief state lawmakers on the company's plans to build a container port facility in the state.

At the Heartland Port Authority meeting on Thursday, Vice Chairman Roger Fischer suggested he could invite representatives of American Patriot Holdings to talk about their plans and how they might fit with the local port authority's plans.

Fischer and other port officials from across the state met with APH officials and Gov. Mike Parson in December. After that meeting, APH announced a 300-acre stretch of land in Herculaneum would become the home of their new container port facility, which would serve the Midwest region for the export and import of containerized cargo.

Herculaneum was chosen since it's one of the most northern spots on the Mississippi River, without dealing with locks and dams. The facility is expected to open in 2024 with boats from the port going to locations up and down the Missouri River.

Heartland board member Jason Branstatter, who is operations manager at Capital Sand Company, suggested the board should talk with APH officials about what their needs would be at a port in Central Missouri. He suggested APH could potentially help the board determine what the best site for the Heartland Port.

The Port Authority has considered three sites for a Central Missouri port.

North Site One, which is approximately 22 acres north of the Missouri River in Callaway County; the South Site, which is about 118 acres south of the Missouri River in Cole County; and North Site Two in Callaway County which is approximately 3 acres north of the Missouri River, is owned by a private individual and is directly east of Capital Sand Company.

But one site, the South Site, has been designated the prime site.

The board is working with its engineering firm, Barr Engineering, to determine if there are any unforeseen problems with 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. 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.

The goal is to put together an application to be sent to the Corps of Engineers. The application could bring things to light that might be objectionable about that site that the board would need to consider. Board members also said sending this application does not mean they would build on this site.

A conceptional drawing of what they're considering would be sent. The first phase of development for the South Site has 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.

How soon this all might be completed was not mentioned.

Board Chairman Harry Otto said the board also needed to reach out to the Office of Administration. Although the land has been conveyed to the Port Authority, he said, "it doesn't mean they are giving it away. We don't know what the cost might be for acquisition."

The Port Authority does have grants from the Missouri Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Agriculture, totaling approximately $1.05 million that could be used for land acquisition costs.

Fischer asked the board members Thursday if they had abandoned the idea of a north port.

He said he had talked privately with land owners along the river in Callaway County who expressed to him an interest in selling land that could be used for a port. He provided maps showing five sites located in a stretch from behind the 63 Diamonds Sports Complex down toward an area behind Flowers Baking.

Fischer said the sites were in what he called "deep water locations" which would allow for boats, such as what APH is proposing to use, to get in and out, plus they would have easy access for trucks taking cargo off the boats to get to U.S. 63.

"We've got people interested, but I can't keep going back to them and tempting them if we're not going to spend any money," Fischer said.

Otto and other board members said they hadn't given up on a north port site, but felt they would start with the south site and eventually add a north port.

They noted officials with OCCI Inc, which owns what was identified last year as North Side One and (according to Barr) was the best of three potential port sites, were not inclined to sell the land they needed. That site is approximately 22 acres north of the Missouri River and is accessible from Missouri 94. Otto said he'd be willing to go back and talk again with OCCI officials, if the board felt that was a good idea.