Excitement building over Cates Landing riverport project
Posted: Thursday, April 14, 2011 9:35 pm
There is a renewed sense of excitement being generated by the Cates Landing project in Lake County.
The only piece of the funding puzzle not in place is the state Legislature’s approval of Gov. Bill Haslam’s budget. It is his proposed budget that includes $7 million for the Lake County port.
A total of $13 million in federal funding has been approved for the project.
The $20 million in state and federal funding will finance the completion of Cates Landing and that has area economic development officials mobilizing to capitalize on the project. (See related photo, Page 10.)
The Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority met Wednesday morning at the Lannom Center in Dyersburg. The meeting was the first time members of the port authority have met since the recent announcement that $20 million in state and federal funds is in place for the Cates Landing project.
Representing Obion County at the meeting were board members Richard Arnold and Dave Frankum, Phillip Pinion with the Obion County Joint Eco-nomic Development Council, Lindsay Frilling with the Obion County Chamber of Commerce, Bedford Dunavant with the Obion County Industrial Development Board and local businessman Ron Cooper.
“This is the most exciting meeting we’ve had,” Arnold said after the port board’s meeting Wednesday.
He has been an active member of the board for more than four years and, like others on the board, he has been waiting for the day the port is open to river traffic.
That day now appears 18 months away — October 2012.
“I want to thank you all. You’ve done a great job to bring this about,” Cooper told board chairman Jimmy Williamson after the meeting.
Wednesday’s meeting lasted only 35 minutes, but Williamson guided the board through a short but busy agenda highlighted by the news that the Cates Landing project has received TIGER II grant funding through the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“We’re getting ready to do some real work for a change,” Williamson told the board at the start of the meeting.
His comment was made as the board is finally turning the corner from working on funding for the project to actually moving forward with plans to build the port.
Dirt moving and preliminary site work is expected to start in July.
Forcum Lannom Contractors of Dyersburg is the general contractor for the project.
As part of the site preparation work, the board voted Wednesday to negotiate with a Grenada, Miss., company and a Harrison, Ark., company for the contract to clear away vegetation that is growing on about 234 acres along the Mississippi River bank. When the channel was dredged to create the deep water port, the waste from the river bottom was dumped along the eastern river bank and now unwanted vegetation has sprouted up along the bank.
The two low bidders to clear out the unwanted vegetation will use helicopters to spray the bank with special chemicals to kill off the vegetation. The bids for the work ranged from $28,204 to $28,545.
Approval was granted Wednesday to a recommendation from Williamson that the board authorize Forcum Lannom to begin negotiating with a Washington company to build the pier. It is estimated the pier construction will cost about $11 million, according to Williamson.
He estimated $7 million has been invested in the Cates Landing project so far.
The port authority’s spending is about to increase dramatically as the construction phase of the project gets under way.
“We are ready to go … ready to start construction,” Williamson said during the meeting.
Once completed, the Cates Landing port and an adjacent industrial park will serve as a premier destination for barges traveling up the Mississippi River and delivering cargo to northern destinations.
For a region that is struggling with economic development, Cates Landing is seen as having the potential to create jobs, attract new industry to the area and generate new investment in the region.
“I think when we start construction, we’re going to see a lot of activity,” Williamson said.
Published in The Messenger 4.14.11