River counties work to establish river port project

Four river counties are putting together their own river port authority. Ballard, Carlisle, Hickman, and Fulton county leaders launched the initiative this year.

The idea came after the newly opened expansion of the Panama Canal this summer. Bigger boats and barges are now able to travel across Central America through those expanded locks. That brings more barges in New Orleans, Louisiana, and their goods into our area.

Ballard County leaders hope they can take advantage of the river port authority to create more jobs.

The men and women working on the river tend to stay on the river, and that’s where Coy Dowdy and the Economy Boat Store in Wickliffe help out. “They call us with what they’re needing,"Dowdy says, "We give them supplies, grocery, fuel.”

Dowdy says working on the river, business is always flowing. “Their destinations, they’ve got to get there. They’ve got corn. They’ve got fuel," he says.

With the amount of money the boats bring in, Dowdy says a port could help the town and the river industry. "It can get very, very busy here right in this location," Dowdy says. 

The river port will likely be based here in Wickliffe, but all four river counties will come together to help manage and promote it.

Ballard County Judge Executive Vickie Viniard says there are still a lot of details to work out, but says the potential for a river port is enormous. “It looks like all the counties will get involved with us. Losing our biggest employer, we’re trying to create jobs," she says.

For Dowdy, who says he’s seen the hard work put in on the river, a port would make things flow smoothly.

Viniard tells me the first steps to establish a river port is for counties to appoint their board members. Then the board would work on more of those details and look for money to get the port up and running. As for Ballard County, it appointed Charlie Martin. He’s the former director of the Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization.

The River County Economic Development Project will hold its first meeting in October.

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