A proposed major multi-modal project that would be located along the Mississippi River in Lincoln County near Winfield has drawn the wrath of the St. Charles County Council.
On Nov. 12, the council approved a resolution, by a 6-1 vote, opposing a proposal made by the Port of Lincoln Consortium. The resolution states that the council “believes this proposal will do permanent, devastating and wholesale damage to the environment, wildlife, habitat and heritage in Lincoln and St. Charles counties.”
According to St. Charles County officials, the project, which has been discussed in various forms since as far back as 2014, would include a project area of more than 7,100 acres – or more than 11 square miles of paved-over farmland and floodplain. It would include a freight terminal with warehouses to support truck, barge and rail operations, a 300-acre port and an airport “with a runway at least two miles long.”
The resolution states that the council “is concerned that much of the proposed project consists of raising of the floodplain by fill or levee, which would further constrict the Mississippi River and increase flooding in the regions near the Port of Lincoln, ultimately resulting in devastating effects on St. Charles County.”
It adds that truck traffic may increase as the result of a new distribution center on Hwy. 79, which would increase safety risks to motorists, commuters, and St. Charles County residents.
The resolution also notes that development “of such a large area in the heart of the Mississippi Flyway could be disturbing to the surrounding environment.” The flyway is a major seasonal migration route for waterfowl and birds. The floodplain areas along the Mississippi River are major duck hunting areas.
According to the resolution, the council believes there are “numerous ports already in the region [that] can handle current river freight traffic without the possible environmental damage and safety risks this proposed project could bring” and “opposes any local, state or federal legislation that supports or implements the Port of Lincoln project.”
Councilmember David Hammond [District 4] cast the only “no” vote on the resolution but did not say why. Two other councilmembers strongly supported the resolution.
“It [the Port of Lincoln proposal] would absolutely create flooding problems in St. Charles County,” Councilmember Joe Brazil [District 2]. “This is a terrible project for us. All it does is take 7,000 acres out of the floodplain. The water has to go somewhere it just floods additional properties in St. Charles County.”
Councilmember Joe Cronin [District 2] said the project may change the migration of bird life in the area. “It’s a horrible, horrible idea from an environmental standpoint,” he said.
Despite their opposition to a Lincoln County port proposal, St. Charles County officials have explored re-establishing a port authority, particularly along the Missouri River, to provide a barge loading and offloading facility, storage space, and rail and highway connections for moving freight as well as to provide tourism opportunities.
The council included funding for a port authority study in the county’s 2016 budget; however, no action has been taken.
There are at least 15 established port authorities along waterways in Missouri, including authorities in the city of St. Louis and in St. Louis, Lincoln and Jefferson counties. Ports offer the ability to transfer and store cargo inexpensively and can provide land for economic development.