The Port’s primary material handling terminals were in place by the mid-1980s. They included: the public liquid terminal; two public dry bulk terminals; steel products dock; public general cargo dock and fertilizer terminal. New industrial facilities, transportation and utility improvements, and other facility enhancements continued between 1985 and 2000.
Lewis & Clark Marine purchased Art’s Fleeting in 1986 and continues to provide tow boat switching and fleeting services today. Lewis & Clark Marine has seven tow boats and is the largest and most active barge switching company in the entire 90 mile stretch of the Port of Metropolitan St. Louis.
In 1986, Carl Ranft retired. He had served as a Port Board member for seven years, and then as its executive director for the next 20 years. His leadership, commitment and knowledge had come at the right time in enabling the Port to continue on its path of success.
Following Ranft’s retirement, Robert Wydra was appointed executive director. Wydra had joined the Port in 1982 with a background in planning and had several years in which he worked with Ranft to better understand the business. The transition was a smooth one, and Wydra picked up right where Ranft left off.
Also in 1986, a portion of the neighboring property on the US Army Charles Melvin Price Support Center to the south of the Port, was put up for sale. The General Services Administration declared the property excess to the needs of the US Army. The Port borrowed a $225,000 down payment from Continental Bank via an “Interim Loan Agreement” and entered into a 15-year, $960,000 mortgage of the property.
The Port purchased a 120,000 sq. ft. warehouse building and 97 acres of property in the middle of the Army Base. They concurrently entered into an agreement with The Delivery Network to operate the warehouse as a public warehouse foreign trade zone site. The General Services Administration mortgage was paid off in 2000.
In 1988, the Port, in concert with Bulk Service, issued $3.6 million in Port and Terminal Revenue Bonds to construct numerous improvements to include: two 10,000 ton storage domes, ramps, truck receiving and load-out system and conveyor connections to Bulk Service Dock One. In addition, rail track, a deck barge and hydraulic backhoe for inbound loading of bulk material were added. The debt service payments for the Revenue Bond issue were provided to the Port by Bulk Service. The final payment of this Revenue Bond Issue was made on December 31, 2008.
In 1989, expansion and construction remained on the minds of the Port and its tenants, when the Port issued another $3.6 million in Port Revenue Bonds to construct a modern, high-cube, 150,000 sq. ft. warehouse on the property it had purchased from General Services Administration at the Army Depot. The Port entered into an agreement with The Delivery Network to operate the new warehouse as a public warehouse and US Foreign Trade Zone facility with the responsibility to pay off the Port’s bond debt.
The construction marked the single, largest building that the Port had constructed in its history. The building is located at 1000 Access Boulevard, and 20 years later, it remains a modern warehouse structure.
In 1991, the Port witnessed the construction of two new industrial plants within the complex. Robinson Steel, headquartered in East Chicago, Indiana, determined that a new 100,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art steel processing plant at the Port near Granite City Steel was the best available location for expansion of its business. The company cited rail, barge and highway access as its reasons for locating at the Port.
Robinson Steel entered into a land lease with the Port which had agreed to provide roadway improvements and utility extensions to assist the project. That same year, Davis Water and Waste Company financed and built a mixing facility and distribution center on a three-acre site at the Port to distribute ferrous sulfate, a product used in water treatment plants and for paint pigments. The company, now owned by Siemens Water Technologies Corp., has recently extended its land lease with the Port.
The year 1993 is a time that will not be forgotten any time soon by those in the marine business or anyone living near the Mississippi River. Unusually heavy snows in the northern Plains States in the Winter of 1992 and early Spring of 1993, followed by a pattern of locally heavy and consistent rains, made nearly the entire year of 1993 susceptible for flooding locally and in many cities along the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Illinois Rivers. Typically a flood will last for a week or two. The Great Flood of 1993 occurred over months, not weeks.
The Chain of Rocks Canal was nearly “bank full” for several weeks, which had all of Madison, Venice, Granite City and Pontoon Beach on edge. Flood waters reached an all-time high of 49.4 ft. elevation, coming within just a few feet of the top of the levee. The situation became so dire that the Corps of Engineers and the US Coast Guard believed that the wake created by one or more tow boats, could be enough stress on a levee bank to cause a breach. This caused the unprecedented closing down of all River operations on the entire Mississippi River.
Volunteers showed up at the Port by the hundreds to help sandbag around sand boils that began appearing on the “dry” side of the levee. Robinson Steel sandbagged around its equipment inside its own building. The Apex Oil facility was shut down because water was “impounded” on the dry side of the levee in an attempt to equalize the tremendous pressure on the river side of the levee. Their facility was surrounded by water.
For the 40,000 or so residents living in the river bottoms area, including the Tri-Cities, the question on everyone’s mind became not if, but when the levees would fail. Many began preparing for the worst by moving out valuables, or moving out altogether. Were it not for the unfortunate breaches of the levees in Chesterfield, Missouri, and Valmeyer, Illinois located in nearby Monroe County, the Port and its local communities could have experienced a disaster of unimaginable proportions.
By the mid-1990s, rail capacity available to serve the growing Chain of Rocks harbor terminal businesses reached a critical point. To alleviate the congestion, the Port borrowed $1.68 million in 1995 from the State of Illinois Department of Transportation through its Rail Freight Loan Program. The project constructed a loop track system adjacent to the “AO Smith” Rail Yard, off-site from the Port’s property.
The loan repayment was shared equally by the Port, Norfolk Southern Corporation and Lewis & Clark Marine: those who benefit most from the additional rail track. That same year, the Port’s tonnage reached a record-high of four million tons of product handled through its facilities by its operators.
In 1996, Apex Oil Company, operating as Petroleum Fuel and Terminal Company, initiated a major renovation project to insulate and re-skin, with stainless steel, their major storage tank structures.
In 1997, the Port undertook a multi-purpose improvement project and Revenue Bond Series 1997A, B and C, borrowing $2.95 million for infrastructure projects related to its industrial park. Rail track and roadway improvements were undertaken at Bulk Service Company Dock One. The Port extended water and sewer service into the industrial park and paved Old Rock Road from Rock Road to Bauer Rd.
These improvements were undertaken to assist in the construction of a new $5.5 million, 100,000 sq. ft. steel processing plant which was constructed on Port property as a joint venture between National Steel and Robinson Steel. Beginning in 1999, Robinson Steel expanded its land lease with the Port and constructed a 100,000 sq. ft. addition to its original processing plant.
The Port expended $75,000 at this time to construct a new stormwater pump station in the Port’s central drainage ditch to better protect the Robinson Steel expansion and other tenants during flood events. The net worth of public/private facilities in the industrial park was estimated at $50 million.