Kentucky may technically be a land-locked state, but it certainly does not lack in shoreline. Lake Cumberland alone, for example, has almost as much as our country’s entire Pacific coast, all 1,293 miles of it.
No state outside of Alaska has more streams and rivers, and our 1,500 miles of navigable waterways are double the length of our interstates.
In other words, we know water.
It was with that thought in mind that House and Senate leaders decided earlier this year to create a committee dedicated solely to our streams, rivers and lakes.
At its inaugural meeting last week, legislators learned that our country’s first interstate system, so to speak, still has a lot of room for growth. Only two percent of domestic freight is shipped by water, compared to 44 percent in Europe and 61 percent in China.
Those wanting to see that number grow point out several things in favor of shipping by boat or barge. They note that a single inland vessel can move the equivalent of 870 semi trucks or 224 rail cars, and do it with far less greenhouse gases. Shipments by river can also scale up quickly.
In Kentucky, more than 84 tons of material are either imported or exported beyond our borders each year, and nearly 57 million tons are shipped from one in-state location to another.
There are 11 active or developing river ports in Kentucky, with most on the Ohio River in cities like Maysville, Louisville, Owensboro, Henderson and Paducah. Many other cities also have ties to our rivers, including nearly half of Kentucky’s 120 county seats.
The newly formed legislative committee will dedicate future meetings to issues ranging from adventure tourism and homeland security at our ports and dams to limiting water pollution and promoting hunting and fishing.
It is important to note that Kentucky has already taken many steps to preserve our most pristine waterways. One of those programs, the Division of Water’s Kentucky Wild Rivers, now includes 114 miles and more than 26,000 acres of surrounding land.
The new waterways committee will help my legislative colleagues and me re-focus our efforts on getting the most from this resource while continuing to protect it so it will still be as viable generations from now as it was centuries ago.
If you have any thoughts about this, or about anything else involving state government, I would like to know. Should you want to write, my address is Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.
You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. For the deaf or hard of hearing, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.
Representative Rick Rand