LITTLE ROCK — A legislative panel Thursday approved a lawmaker's request to study what cities along the Arkansas River would need to build marinas for economic development and tourism.

LITTLE ROCK — A legislative panel Thursday approved a lawmaker’s request to study what cities along the Arkansas River would need to build marinas for economic development and tourism.

The study will evaluate resources that are available to help cities develop marinas, as well as how to deal with natural or man-made barriers that may stand in the way, such as railroad tressels, water and gas lines and shallow water.

“The purpose of this is to enhance marinas all the way from Fort Smith to the Mississippi River,” Rep. Leslee Post, D-Ozark, said after her proposal was endorsed at a joint meeting of the Senate Committee on Transportation, Technology and Legislative Affairs and the House Committee on Public Transportation.

Earlier, Post told lawmakers that 22 communities in 14 counties bordering the river are interested in developing marinas, but many of them don’t know where to begin.

“They (each) have possible barriers or have needs that they are working on to further develop their economic development,” she said.

Post said she hopes to meet with representatives from those communities, as well as with the state Parks and Tourism, state Department of Economic Development, state Department of Environmental Quality and other organizations to discuss the options available.

Post said the city of Ozark has been trying to develop a marina for years but can’t because a Union Pacific Railroad tressel is in the way. She said city officials have been meeting with railroad officials and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss the problem.

Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Morrilton, spoke for the proposal, saying efforts by several communities in Conway County along the river to develop marinas have been hampered by abandoned railroad bridges and above ground water and gas lines that cross the river.

Post said the city of Van Buren in Crawford wants to build a marina but is having difficulty because the river is too shallow in the area.

The findings of the study, Post said, perhaps could benefit North Little Rock, which this week received a federal grant of more than $1 million to help with marina development along the Arkansas River.

The $1,028,425 grant will cover nearly two-thirds of the $1.6 million cost of building slips and fuel services for recreational boaters at Rockwater Marina to be located just west of downtown. Post said she hopes to hold meetings later this year and have recommendations ready for the 2013 legislative session.

The committee also recommended a proposal by Rep. Hank Wilkins IV, D-Pine Bluff, to study the impact of requiring seatbelts and seatbelt use in all school buses purchased on or after July 1, 2013.

A bill Wilkins filed during the 2011 session to require seatbelts in new buses failed in the House Public Transportation Committee.