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Region must take advantage of Ohio River

As residents of southern Ohio, we sometimes take the Ohio River for granted.  But water is one of Ohio’s greatest natural treasures, and the Ohio River is a huge asset to our state.

This, along with other resources—including coal, timber and natural gas—have been driving the economy in Ohio for decades.

Recently, Representative Terry Johnson, Senator David Daniels and I—along with a host of other federal, state and local officials—focused on the opportunities that the Ohio River provides to our region.

The Ohio River Summit was co-hosted by the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation.

Several different facts about the river were worth noting. For instance, Ohio is eighth in the nation in tonnage moved.

This means the Ohio River system is responsible for 63 million tons of commodities valued at $7.4 billion moving to, from and within Ohio—about twice the value of what is moved on Lake Erie, which is also important to our state.

There are hundreds of jobs related to the Ohio River in the area right now.

It was brought to our attention that the amount of coal being moved on the river has declined substantially because of the regulations being implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

This impacts the economy of the area, but also has the potential to cause escalating fuel prices.

Patrick Donovan of the Rahall Institute testified about some potentially big developments for the Ohio River’s use, including development of the Marcellus/Utica Shale and the widening of the Panama Canal.

According to testimony we heard, the development from the Marcellus/ Utica Shale for natural gas and crude oil will have a positive impact on jobs in Ohio River Valley.

Likewise, the widening of the Panama Canal—to be completed by 2016—will lead to much more opportunity for moving freight along the Ohio River into Ohio for distribution and the ability to ship goods out of Ohio at a lower cost.

This can lead to more jobs for our state, also.

Steve Wells, who is the Economic Development Director in Scioto County, was asked about what could be done to speed job growth along the Ohio River. His answer was that impediments caused by government regulation are the biggest hurdles.

Meanwhile, a Burlington resident testified about his concerns regarding barges on the Ohio River.

It is important to note that with opportunities to use the river come environmental and community concerns that also must be taken into consideration.

The Ohio River Summit was held to raise the profile of the Ohio River and its economic benefit with our leaders both in Columbus and in Washington.

I believe that mission was accomplished, but also that we need to do much more as a region to promote the river.

As a result, my legislative colleagues and I will work to do so.

Special thanks go out to Congressman Johnson’s office, Senator Brown’s office and Senator Portman’s office for engaging in this issue and being at the Ohio River Summit.

Also, thanks again to the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation and all those who participated and hosted this event.

John Carey serves in Ohio’s 87th District of the House of Representatives, which includes eastern Lawrence County. He can be reached at (614) 466-1366, by writing to: Ohio House of Representatives, 77 S. High St., Columbus, OH 43215, or via e-mail at District87@ohr.state.oh.us.