Columbiana Port Authority Part of New District to Bridge Ohio River Data Gap

LISBON, Ohio – The Columbiana County Port Authority is now part of the country’s largest inland port district, helping to bridge an important gap along the Ohio River. 

Last week, the Army Corps of Engineers approved the formation of the Mid-Ohio Valley Port District – nearly five years after it was first proposed. The new port district spans 220 miles of the Ohio River and including seven Ohio counties and nine in West Virginia.

According to Penny Traina, executive director of the Columbiana County Port Authority, formation of the Mid-Ohio Valley Port District will allow information about maritime cargo movement to be developed and aggregated f.

Such data is “extremely important” in the efforts of economic development on both banks of the Ohio River, Traina said, noting the data collected will include types of cargo being shipped, the tonnage and monetary value of those shipments.

“As an economic developer, we have a better understanding of the products that are being transported on our waterways systems,” she continued. “We can then utilize the information to secure additional state and federal maritime grants for future expansions along the Ohio River.”

The information will be used to guide economic development efforts, allowing manufacturers shippers to ascertain exactly what is being shipped on the Ohio River, according to Traina, who pointed specifically to the Shell cracker plant in Monaca, Pa., and a similar plant being eyed for down river.

“It will be an important connection to the global market, via the Gulf of Mexico, offering continued support to manufacturing, energy production, polymers, chemicals, metals, wood products and transportation logistics,” she said.

Before the creation of the Mid-Ohio Valley Port District, the stretch of the Ohio River from the Pennsylvania border to the southern tip of Ohio was unrepresented. The new district joins the ports of Pittsburgh, Huntington and Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky to give the river’s entire border with Ohio an agency that is collecting information.

In recommending approval of the plan, Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks wrote in a letter of support, “The designation will help more accurately capture, record and report the valuation of commerce in our area…elevating awareness of the importance of the region and furthermore supporting the attraction of economic development and use of the Ohio River system for efficient, cost-effective waterborne transportation.”

Marchbanks noted 57 written endorsements from local governments and congressional interests in the two states involved as well as other interested parties were received by ODOT and the West Virginia Department of Transportation for the proposed new district.

Traina said there had been “total support” for formation of the new statistical district, which meant no additional cost to taxpayers in either state nor any impact on jurisdiction of existing or future public ports or economic development authorities. She credited Mark Locker of ODOT for being instrumental in the project’s success.

“The most important thing I see from it is that we, in Columbiana County, did not do a good job marketing one of our greatest assets,” Traina said. “I do believe that, from this effort and what we went through, it highlighted the awareness of the importance of the Ohio River.”

She pointed out there is more commerce transported on the Ohio River than on the Great Lakes and said in Columbiana County alone there are 18 private terminals operating along the river. 

The county port authority recently unveiled its interactive map showing those companies and the commodities they handle, and Traina said it is now working on a similar map for the entire river. In addition, with approval of the Mid-Ohio Valley Port District, her team is putting together additional marketing materials. 

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.