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Jefferson County Commission backs creation of port district

STEUBENVILLE — Jefferson County commissioners have given their stamp of approval to developing a Mid-Ohio Valley Port District.

Commissioners said the statistical port would be good for the region, saying it would help build market awareness “and may influence potential investors, which will lead to economic growth for our area.”

“Our hope is to foster awareness of our area with the use of the Ohio River system for cost-effective water use transportation,” commissioners said in a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Huntington District’s Col. Jason Avers. “We realize the creation of this port will allow the entities involved to accurately capture, record and report waterborne traffic.”

The designation would allow the Army Corps of Engineers to collect and report cargo on a roughly 217-mile stretch of the Ohio River between Pittsburgh and Huntington. Proponents say the information could be used to promote the accessibility and cost-effectiveness of river transportation, potentially attracting new businesses.

The concept has been endorsed by the Ohio and West Virginia departments of transportation, the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission and other groups. If approved it would encompass nine counties in West Virginia and seven in Ohio.

“We’ve been working on this for several years,” BHJ Director Mike Paprocki said. “There are statistical ports across the Ohio River system — Pittsburgh has one, Huntington has one, Cincinnati-Kentucky is one. What they do, through the Army Corps of Engineers, is collect all the data … and aggregate it altogether.”

Paprocki said supporters “for the last three years have been petitioning through the Army Corps of Engineers to try and get a statistical port designated here.”

“You’d be astounded at the economic impact it could have,” he added. “What this really is, is a marketing tool. Some of the initial numbers (suggest) we could be the largest in volume statistical port in the country.”

Paprocki told commissioners it won’t involve any cash outlay on their part.

“This is a data collection tool is what it is,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming for us to have it. It has the full support of all congressional officials involved in Ohio and West Virginia.”

Asked how the port would be defined, Paprocki said it was “just a gap that was left” between the Pittsburgh and Huntington districts.

“It closes the gap, that’s the really important part for us,” he said. “Hopefully it will justify us to get some improvement on our locks and dams, they’re past their statistical life.”

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