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Beshear to lead Tenn-Tom waterway development authority

Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority

Gov. Andy Beshear will be heading up a four-state effort to promote the development of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and its economic and trade potential.

A release from Beshear’s office announced his election as the 2023 chairman of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority Monday. The governor said he’s excited about the possibilities of expanding on the opportunities offered by Kentucky and the region’s resources.

“The state of Kentucky has been blessed with tremendous water resources, which provides great opportunities for commerce, recreation and tourism,” Beshear said. “Ports and waterways directly contribute $2.5 billion to the Kentucky economy and support over 15,000 Kentucky jobs. The Tenn-Tom Waterway provides a vital link to the Gulf of Mexico and the world to Kentucky business and industry.”

The four-state, 230-mile artificial waterway touches Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee. The development authority – which includes governors of each member state and five appointees per state – was created by Congress in 1958 to promote the development of the Tenn-Tom Waterway and its economic and trade potential.

Other members of the group cited Beshear’s “tremendous support” of its efforts and others to promote inland waterway systems during his time in office.

Beshear helped to create the Kentucky Lake Research Project, an experimental system of netting, pumping, lights and sounds to target and eradicate invasive Asian carp and restore tourism surrounding Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. Beshear was also a part of awarding $500,000 grants to four Kentucky riverports, including the Paducah-McCracken Riverport Authority for the construction of a steel commodity hopper and gate system. The governor also announced that River View Coal LLC would create 260 new jobs and invest $35 million dollars in Henderson County using the inland waterway system to ship coal.

Beshear’s father, then Gov. Steve Beshear held office as chairman of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority in 2011 and 2015, making the governor the first chairman whose parent has also held the post.

“There are many challenges facing the inland waterway system, and Gov. Beshear’s leadership is vital to our efforts with the US. Army Corps of Engineers and waterway stakeholders,” said Mitch Mays, administrator for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority. “The authority is looking forward to working closely with Gov. Beshear in order to ensure that the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway continues to make a positive impact for all members of the compact.”

Beshear was elected alongside other officers for the group, including new vice chairman John McConnell of Murray and treasurer T.L. “Bud” Phillips of Columbus, Mississippi. McConnell, a member since 2020, is an insurance professional with over 25 years of experience. Phillips, a businessman, is the longest-serving member of the authority, having first been appointed in 1988.

The Tennessee-Tombigbee opened to commerce in 1985 and is a crucial transportation route for shipping raw materials and other bulk products between mid-America and the Southeast. It also offers more opportunities for water-based recreation businesses like marinas and campgrounds , making the waterway corridor a major attraction for nature lovers.

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