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Ohio officials: Regional port will bring jobs

A vision to the turn the Tri-State into the nation’s largest inland port became a reality Wednesday when officials gathered for a dedication ceremony in connection with the project.

Thursday, November 02, 2000

A vision to the turn the Tri-State into the nation’s largest inland port became a reality Wednesday when officials gathered for a dedication ceremony in connection with the project.

Dignitaries from Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, commissioners from 11 counties, numerous municipalities, port and economic development authorities gathered at Harris Riverfront Park in Huntington to commemorate the dedication of the new Port of Huntington Tri-State.

On the water, towboats George W. Britton (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), A.N. Prentice (American Electric Power) and Jincy were tied to the banks of the river around the stage to commemorate the hour-long event.

Behind them, towboats Mountain Girl (McGinnis, Inc.) and SuperAmerica (Marathon-Ashland Petroleum) held fast with the river’s current.

The former Port of Huntington was originally recognized as a 14-mile port.

The redefined port includes 100 miles of the Ohio River, nine miles of the Big Sandy River and 90 miles of the Kanawha River – allowing new industry a combined total of 199 navigable miles for shipping transportation.

Madison Coal & Supply Company chairman Charles Jones said the redefining of port boundaries now makes the waterway the largest inland port in the United States and the sixth largest port overall.

"If anyone is looking for a major waterway, they’re going to look a the Huntington port," Jones said at the ceremony. "We have roughly 81,500 million tons of goods transported through this port each year. That’s a market value of over $5 billion in goods such as coal, coke, petroleum, and steel."

The Ohio, Kanawha and Big Sandy rivers combined, form a port that surpasses the ports of Pittsburgh and St. Louis, he added.

Pittsburgh reports approximately 52.9 tons of cargo that are moved through its port while St. Louis only reports 31.7 tons of cargo moving through its port, he said.

Huntington Mayor Jean Dean said the dedication of the port now places the three states in the No. 1 spot for economic development.

"I’ve never been happy with being second, third or fourth with anything," she said. "With this port, we’re now No. 1. For far too long now, we have taken for granted these rivers. Now is the time for that to change."

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Col. John Rivenburgh said the new port is sure to attract new industries because waterways are the "most cost effective way to ship goods."

"On the average, a gallon of fuel allows one ton of cargo to be shipped 59 miles by truck, 202 miles by rail and 514 miles by barge," he said. "Waterways are by far the safest and most economical means of transportation."

Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce director Pat Clonch said after the ceremony the dedication gives Lawrence County a greater chance to attract new industry.

"The most affordable means of travel is the river," she said. "This will really help us in promoting such projects as the new 500 acre industrial park in South Point and the county in general."

The new port will be a selling point for potential industries seeking relocation, said T.J. Justice, director of the Office of Economic Development.

"We believe the Ohio River is an under-used resource," he said. "But now, when Huntington wins, Ohio wins. When Ashland wins, Ohio wins. This gives us a new tool in our tool box to work with in economic development."

Trent agreed and said the port would be an additional selling point for new industries.

"We feel Lawrence County is right in the center of all this," he said. "This is going to continue enhancing jobs right here in this region and even in our own county."