Public hearing for Missouri river port sees community concern

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Heartland Port Authority of Central Missouri's first and only public hearing saw several community members raise concerns over plans to build a new port on the Missouri River.

The public hearing was held in the Jefferson City City Hall. Attendees were encouraged to submit written comments as well.

The project is an initiative of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, the Callaway County Commission, the Cole County Commission and the Jefferson City administration. The port would primarily be used to transport agricultural products.

Currently, there are two ports on the Missouri River in the state, one in Kansas City and an inactive one in Boonville. The rest of the ports in Missouri are on the Mississippi River.

The Missouri River is mostly used for transportation of agricultural products. However, raw and finished steel products, gravel, cement and other raw construction materials are also transported on the river.

Right now, those materials are primarily brought to the central Missouri area by truck.

Heartland Port Authority officials say transporting cargo by water is the cheapest option by far. But not everyone in the community is sold on the idea of a new port.

"If it wasn't for being funded by free money in DC then we wouldn't be doing it," Bert Dirschell said.

Dirschell is a longtime resident of the Jefferson City area and is worried the burden of paying for the new port will fall on his great-grandchildren. 

Randy Allen, president of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, said the new port could bring more businesses to the area. 

Allen said the next step for the port authority is to submit the proposal to MODoT for approval in August.