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Wednesday, January 21 2009

Major Jonathan Weinzapfel is working on finding a solution to build a slack water port. A slack water port is a protected bay off a river system containing a steady level of water to allow ships to load cargo more easily.


This certainly would benefit Evansville as gas prices will increase one day, and more cargo will be shipped on the river. The development of the water port should be tied to moving all heavy industries west of Casino Aztar to the new water port and develop this area to its economic potential with restaurants, entertainment and condominiums.

River port upgrade suggested

A slack water port in Evansville would encounter intense competition from nearby Ohio River communities, but it would strengthen Southern Indiana's economy, providing a low-cost, environmentally friendly transportation alternative.

Those were some of the conclusions of a feasibility study on whether Evansville should make improvements to its port. The study, presented to the Evansville Port Authority on Tuesday, was conducted by Libby Ogard of Prime Focus LLC in De Pere, Wis., and John Didomizio of Morley and Associates of Newburgh.

They concluded that while the current economic downturn may make it difficult to grow the port, opportunities for funding could become available through President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan.

"Pending legislative stimulus programs will favor infrastructure projects which promote independence from foreign oil," according to the study.

The city has filed a letter with the Army Corps of Engineers expressing interest in developing a slack water port.

A slack water port is a protected bay located off a river system containing a steady level of still water to allow ships to more easily load cargo. Slack water ports are common on the Ohio and Mississippi river systems.

"Indiana ports are growing and prospering fairly rapidly," Ogard said.

The study recommends that the city conduct a cost-benefit analysis of a slack water port and appeal to Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind., and Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., to include the project in future transportation economic stimulus programs. If funding is not available, the project should be reviewed when diesel fuel prices approach $4 per gallon, the study recommends.

High fuel prices increase demand for transporting goods on waterways because barges use significantly less fuel than trucks, according to the study.

That was the case last July when the average price of diesel rose to $4.70 per gallon. As a result, about 7 percent of the county's trucking companies closed in 2008, a year in which the industry saw fuel costs surpass wages as its No. 1 expense, according to the study.

Evansville Port Authority President Herve Vezina wants to review the study before making conclusions.

City Attorney David Jones, who is an advocate of an Evansville slack water port, said he didn't know whether the timing was right to develop the project, given the economic uncertainties.

The study identified two areas that could be developed: an area around the Global American Terminals (Kinder Morgan) and a second and much larger tract of land across from the CSX Howell Yard offices and roundhouse on Dixie Flyer Drive. Any development likely would be a public-private investment. The cost would depend on the size of the development, Ogard and Didomizio both said.




Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 10:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email

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