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Proposal Would Bring Commerce To Ohio River Communities

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A re-designation of approximately 220 miles of the Ohio River would have the potential of improving the region’s ranking with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the amount of cargo being transported through the Ohio River corridor.

Melissa Johnson, director of real estate development and logistics with Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and Eric Thomas, chairman of the Central Ohio River Business Association were the featured speakers at the Maysville-Mason County Chamber of Commerce meeting on Thursday (March 6).

Johnson and Thomas explained the benefits to the region if the Corps of Engineers approves a petition to re-designate 15 counties, on both sides of the Ohio River.

Johnson said the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, which encompasses 26 miles of the Ohio River and has 12 million tons of cargo moving through its corridor, is currently ranked 51 on the Corp of Engineers list. If the Corps agrees to the re-designation, it could move the ranking up to a number 9 or 10 slot for waterways across the country.

Johnson said the inclusion of an additional 38 million tons of cargo would bring the regional total to 50 million, would help improve the ranking. A higher ranking also relates to improved economic development marketing potential to logistic and manufacturing companies for the counties on both sides of the river.

The Port of Huntington, W.Va. which underwent a re-designation 15 years ago to include 200 miles of river corridor, is ranked 14th in the nation.

If the re-designation is approved by the Corps, local port authorities will remain in control of barge terminals within their jurisdiction and the "port" could be marketed on a regional basis. A new name would also be created for the Port, to include both sides of the river.

The re-designation has gained letters of support from Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear,  U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Rob Portman (Ohio), U.S. Representative Thomas Massie, State Representative Mike Denham, and private businesses, Johnson said.

Mason County has barge terminals established by CSX, Carmeuse, Crounse Corporation, and East Kentucky Power Cooperative.  In Adams County, Ohio, DP&L has a barge terminal and in Pendleton County, Carmeuse has one barge terminal.

The boundary would extend to Lewis County to the east and Trimble County to the west. On the Ohio side, it would extend to Sciota County to the east and Hamilton County, Ohio to the west.

The timeline for the re-designation process is to have the final petition to the U.S. Corps of Engineers by the end of March, with a decision by the Corp slated for September 2014.

The re-designation is not about taxation and tariffs, there is no takeover of local authorities and there are no costs.

"There's a lot to gain and nothing to lose," Thomas said of the re-designation.

The Ledger Independent is online at: http://www.maysville-online.com

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