Ports & Terminals

Large PIDP Grant Aids Shawneetown, Ill., Port Plan

With the announcement of one of the country’s largest inland Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP) grants in November, the Shawneetown (Ill.) Regional Port District has big plans.

The port district was awarded full funding of $10,120,000 for a new port access road and $420,000 for a port master plan.

The Shawneetown Port is located on the Ohio River at about Mile 853.

Viserion Grain is currently the only company operating on the riverfront within the port district’s boundaries. However, a $14.1 million public/private investment is also building a fertilizer offloading and distribution center at the site of a former coal unloading facility on port property and is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2024.

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Makenzie Golden, the port district’s chairwoman, said environmental assessments and executing the grant agreement are the next steps in implementing the PIDP grant, both of which could take as long as nine to 12 months. Funding for the project must be obligated by 2026.

“The board is very eager to get rolling on these projects,” she said.

The grant money will help to transform the port, Golden said. The access road will be designed to improve traffic flow, increasing safety and also keeping heavy truck traffic off city streets.

“Currently we have one entrance at the port with nowhere to stage trucks coming in or leaving the port,” Golden said.

That means during the busy harvest season that trucks are lined up on the sides of area roads and in small gravel alleyways.

The new road will roughly split the two largest properties the port  owns, part of the 135 acres of developable port property within the area protected by a levee. It will be 60 feet wide so that trucks may line up when coming in to drop off or pick up grain, fertilizer or other freight.

“The new road will improve safety for those truck drivers and other traffic we have coming in and out of town,” Golden said.

She also believes it will help attract port tenants and lead to regional revitalization.

“Having this road built gives us part of the infrastructure we need to attract new industry to the Shawneetown Port,” she said.

Port Secretary/Treasurer Steve Galt said the port’s main assets include two mooring cells, which will be used by SGI Terminal, the new fertilizer distributor, along with a conveyor and a currently roofless concrete warehouse. It also has nine additional mooring cells about one-quarter mile downstream on adjacent property the port district received after Peabody Coal closed its riverfront facility four years ago.

The port has about 2,200 feet of developable riverfront and some remaining railroad bed, although the track was previously removed.

Master Plan

“Our initial thoughts on the master plan are to plan for things we need in the near future but also plan for what this port will need in 10 and 20 years down the road,” Golden said. “This port board will change over time, but this master plan will give the board a road map of where to head to keep development moving forward.

“Since this port is really starting from scratch, we want to draw a master plan that really builds a ‘Port of the Future,’ with great infrastructure when it comes to electricity, water and broadband but also making this port as energy efficient as we can possibly make it. Hopefully we can incorporate some renewable energy into our plan.

“We envision building an elevated pier to offload and load materials moving up and down the river system. Long term, we hope one day we can get rail put back into the port. If we are able to accomplish that, we will once again be a true intermodal port.”

Galt said the board has already had inquiries from some potential customers. He believes the site is ideally located for agricultural interests, with rich farmland in both southern Illinois and western Kentucky and the bridge at Shawneetown connecting the two states.

Additionally, he said, it could be a location for the storage and movement of salt and of rock and other aggregates.

Some permitting issues have already been worked through, with the Corps of Engineers allowing the use of the mooring cells for agriculture instead of coal last year, Galt said.

Fertilizer Terminal

Patrick Scates, president of SGI River Terminal, said he is glad the fertilizer distribution center the company is building through a combination of private funds and a state grant received in 2021 is a part of the port’s revitalization.

“Our project is what we feel is the first of many projects to come to the port,” he said. “The port authority has been working for a number of years to revitalize the port.”

SGI will invest $3 million, including a barge and material-handling equipment, and will unload the fertilizer at the site, Scates said. A Rebuild Illinois Port Facilities Capital Investment Grant award of $11.2 million will pay for the installation of a 1,200-foot conveyor to adjoining port property, where a 400-by-150-square-foot building for blending and storing 20,000 tons of fertilizer is being built.

SGI has been a major part of helping to redevelop the port. SGI River Terminal purchased property previously owned by River Materials, which was affiliated with Peabody Coal. Peabody had been active in the area since the 1960s. After the agreement, the port acquired additional acreage, including river frontage, from Peabody. That expanded the port from 50 to 150 acres, Galt said.

The new port road, provided by the PIDP grant, will not only help to alleviate traffic concerns but will also help grow the fertilizer distribution center and assist with other development, Scates said. A $500,000 IDOT grant the port received in early 2023 is also paying for the access road’s initial engineering and design.

Golden stressed that the accomplishments so far are the result of teamwork, with a board that works exceptionally well together and with support from industry as well as government at the state and federal levels. She especially thanked Gov. JB Pritzker and state Sen. Dale Fowler. At the federal level, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth were key in helping guide the board toward the programs they thought could be most beneficial, she said. Additionally, Golden thanked U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the Biden administration for seeing the need for federal investment in the area.

Golden said it is gratifying watching a facility that last loaded coal in 2020 being transformed for new uses.

“What the port board is trying to do is take those leftover assets from the coal companies, like the river cells and coal conveyors, and rehab them for a new industry to put to use and bring jobs back to the area,” she said. “A lot of our property is greenfield and ready for development, so hopefully there are industries we haven’t even thought of that would like to build in southern Illinois.  We have long considered this port to be the most underutilized port on the Ohio River, but we believe using the existing river infrastructure gives us a leg up on development for companies wanting to move product on the river.”