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Ballard, Carlisle counties planning new Ky. riverport, receives funding

Barges are pictured on the Ohio River near Cairo.
Peter Hancock
Capitol News Illinois
Barges are pictured on the Ohio River near Cairo.

Ballard County is receiving $300,000 in state funding to go towards the development of a new riverport.

Those funds will be going to the West Kentucky Regional Riverport Authority to develop land and build a riverport along the Mississippi River. Ballard and Carlisle counties are also working in tandem as members of the West Kentucky Alliance for a Vibrant Economy (WAVE) to ensure the new riverport– planned to be built near Wickliffe, KY– is a hub for all incoming river traffic up the Mississippi.

WAVE executive director Jerry Pace said the far western Kentucky region is a key point for river travel in the nation, as it’s the farthest barges and other freight vessels can travel up the Mississippi River before needing to offload cargo onto smaller crafts.

“Where all the material freight will be coming through the Panama Canal, it's a natural thing to place that stuff– that material, that freight– to the heart of the country,” Pace said “[The new riverport will be] within eight hours driving distance to 60% of the entire country.”

Pace said the riverport could connect other smaller riverports all the way from northwestern Tennessee to southern Illinois.

The West Kentucky Regional Riverport Authority does not currently have a timeline for when construction can begin on the new river port. Ballard County Judge Executive Todd Cooper said the organization is still waiting to acquire more funds for the project. Once they’ve reached the project’s financial goal, Cooper said they’ll start running electricity to the site and create other such infrastructure necessary for the riverport.

“It is going to be a very expensive task,” Cooper said “There has not been a new riverport– inland riverport– established in the United States in the last 30 years, so that is a strong selling point.”

Cooper said the proposed riverport will be modeled after the New Orleans riverport near the mouth of the Mississippi. Cooper hopes to make it a regional hub for all incoming river traffic and in-turn spawn “tons” of new jobs in the area.

Zacharie Lamb is a music major at Murray State University and is a Graves County native.
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