The Regional Intermodal Transportation Authority's Wednesday (April 9) meeting presented progress in an effort to secure a study of an inland harbor in the Fort Smith region.
The study, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, would study the feasibility and design for a "slack water harbor," according to Mat Pitsch, intermodal project manager for the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District (WAPDD).
The study, Pitsch said, has already been pre-approved by Congress and is awaiting approval by the secretary of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and could provide up to $7 million in funding for the project.
Though the study being conducted is for the construction of a public harbor, Pitsch said WAPDD is expecting the harbor to be built with private funds.
"Most of the studies that go through that process, a lot of times they will not be built in partnership with the Corps, but will be pulled back and built with a private or local funder."
The search for a private investor for the proposed $23 million inland port is underway, Pitsch said, adding that he recently returned from a trip to Panama that was spearheaded by the Washington, D.C.-based Normandy Group, which WAPDD has hired to attempt to organize a meeting in Fort Smith of potential businesses that could help fund the construction.
The trip, which cost the intergovernmental agency $1,531, allowed Pitsch to meet many of the companies the Normandy Group is attempting to bring to the as of yet unannounced conference.
"It was a last second deal where they (the Normandy Group) were looking at folks that were there and it made sense for me to be there to talk to people who were looking to come to our area and talk to us."