Arkansas River cargo system closing for three weeks of repairs
BY KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer
Friday, November 30, 2012
11/30/12 at 4:39 AM
Shipping on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System will be halted for three weeks for emergency repairs to a lock and dam in Arkansas, shutting down a vital economic engine in northeast Oklahoma.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers informed officials this week that they plan to close the Montgomery Point Lock & Dam near Tichner, Ark., on Saturday.
"The industries much prefer a scheduled outage so it gives them time to work around the problem, but we just didn't have that option this time," said Gil Wooten, chief of operations for the technical support branch of the Corps' Little Rock District.
Factory managers and shipping companies at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa are now scrambling to find a way to move shipments and get equipment while the waterway is down, said Bob Portiss, director of the port.
"Managers hate it because what they are having to do is reroute shipments that would normally have to go out by water," he said. "It takes time to make those arrangements and costs more money."
Portiss said shipments of crude oil out of the port are canceled this week. The port only started handling crude last year to take advantage of price margins between the hub in Cushing and prices at refineries on the Gulf Coast.
Water travel is the least expensive form of travel over long distances, although it takes more time than rail or trucking.
Engineers discovered the lock and dam problems after hearing disturbing noises early this year, Wooten said. The dam will be drained for the repairs, which will cost about $1.5 million, he said.
The waterway carries about 1 million tons of cargo up to ports as far inland as Catoosa.
Montgomery Point is the last lock and dam on the water system before the Mississippi River.
The repairs end a rough year for water travel after extremely dry conditions during the summer caused backups along many areas of the Mississippi River.
Original Print Headline: Emergency repairs to halt river shipping
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380