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Commerce on area’s rivers needs to be treated as an asset

Mid-Ohio Valley residents take for granted the incredible transportation resource that is the Ohio River. We get used to seeing the barges gliding by, and do not give a second thought to its importance to the nation’s economy.

For too long, decision-makers outside our region have also been unable to give much thought to that importance, as data on Ohio River commerce between Pittsburgh and Huntington has been sorely lacking. Information on cargo moving by barge or ferry through seven counties in Ohio and nine counties in West Virginia is simply unavailable.

There is an effort to change that, and stakeholders should get behind it. Wednesday during a meeting in Marietta of stakeholders and governing bodies regulating commerce on the river, consultant Ron Coles presented an idea on behalf of the Ohio Department of Transportation.

“What we’re proposing would be creating this district for statistical purposes only; it would not grow government or be imposing another layer of restrictions,” he said.

That is important, of course. More important is what creating such a district WOULD do. It would let the rest of the country know just what an asset we have here in the Ohio Valley. According to Coles, documentation of the commerce on our river would place the region at the top of inland waterway commerce lists in our country.

But it won’t happen unless stakeholders submit letters or resolutions of support.

“This is not a designation that can be made top-down,” Coles said.

Columbiana County Port Authority Executive Director Penny Traina said “If we can work together to get this designation and get our area-specific data tracked, it helps tell the story on the Ohio River.”

Don’t drop the ball, folks. Let’s make that happen.

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