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Stivers calls for riverport support

BY ADAM BEAMAssociated Press

FRANKFORT - Republican Senate President Robert Stivers says he wants to improve the infrastructure of the state's seven river ports, an important piece of the state's economy, after visiting several in western Kentucky last week.

The Elvis Stahr Harbor in Fulton County handles more than 1 million tons of cargo each year on the Mississippi River, but it has struggled to stay open when the water level dips to 10 feet or less.

Port officials say they need to dredge the harbor every year. But state and federal funding shortfalls mean they can only do it once every two or three years. "Most of your counties don't have a port and they are not familiar with the significance of ports," Fulton County Judge Executive David Gallagher said. "There is not a lot of funding into the port area and they have to really compete for every dollar."

Stivers said he saw the importance of the ports, including several barge companies that employ hundreds of people. He said state lawmakers should discuss improving the ports' infrastructure as a way of expanding the state's economic opportunities. The port received $525,000 in federal grant money and $25,000 in state money for dredging this year, enough to work on the mouth of the harbor.

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