The Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority announced Monday (April 20) it received a $360,000 grant from Economic Development Administration to be used to “conduct an environmental study and a preliminary design analysis for the multimodal facility utility improvements and future developments.”
Ashley Garris, assistant executive director of Western Arkansas Planning and Development District, said in the application for the grant, it was stated the money would be used to “complete the Environmental Review that the Corps of Engineers worked on in draft form for WAIA, initiating and completing all permitting for this project site and any other environmental documentation such as a no rise certificate, completing an engineering study to project costs and needs of all utilities for the future port project, and conducting a preliminary design for the port and multimodal facility.”
All engineering, environmental and consulting firms will be professionally procured with the City of Van Buren, City of Fort Smith, Sebastian County and Crawford County being represented in the process, the application stated. The total cost of the project is expected to be $450,000.
The notice of award of the grant said the “EDA investment supports the Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority with conducting an environmental review for a port and multimodal facility, to help mitigate the effects of recent natural disasters in Crawford County, Arkansas. The project will consist of initiating and completing all permitting for the site, conducting an engineering study to estimate costs and utility needs, and formulating a preliminary design for expanding the facility, which will help promote the export industry, increase the port’s competitiveness, and strengthen the regional economy.”
The WAIA voted in January 2019 to sign a five-year non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) with New Orleans-area Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District and inland waterway shipper American Patriot Container Transport LLC of New Orleans for shipping of containerized freight on the Arkansas River out of Crawford County. That shipping has been postponed until April 2022 to allow for “relay” of a new system of shipping containers to Asia and Europe.
Marty Shell, president and CEO of Van Buren-based Five Rivers Distribution and operator of the Ports of Fort Smith and Van Buren, said he thought it was great WAIA received grant money to develop the site of the multimodal facility, though WAIA might “want to buy the site” before they put too much into studying the development of it.
“I’m all for any economic development monies that can be brought into this region. When it comes to economic development and infrastructure growth, I support it 110%,” Shell said.