Port officials press for lock and dam maintenance funding
BY KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer
Thursday, February 28, 2013
2/28/13 at 7:45 AM
Locks and dams need more than $100 million in critical, overdue maintenance to keep cargo moving on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, officials at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa say.
After a record year that saw more than 2.7 million tons of cargo move through the port in 2012, even a slight problem on neglected locks and dams could bring river traffic to a halt, said port Director Bob Portiss and David Page, chairman of the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority.
"These changes not only threaten our future growth, but our very existence," Page said.
Portiss said the Army Corps of Engineers deems the repairs to be critical, meaning equipment and infrastructure have a significant chance of failure in the next five years.
While Congress allocated $11 million for projects last year, it only covered a fraction of the needs on aging facilities, Portiss said.
The 445-mile long navigation system has 18 locks and dams between Catoosa and the Mississippi River.
The rehabilitation projects stretch the entire length of the waterway, from the Newt Graham Lock and Dam on the Verdigris River in Wagoner County to a repair need on the Montgomery Point Lock and Dam, where the waterway connects to the Mississippi River.
The biggest project is a $14.8 million repair needed on the Wilbur D. Mills Dam a few miles upstream from Montgomery Point. The Corps of Engineers has indicated that the dam's gates are more than a decade overdue for repainting to prevent corrosion.
If the gates are not repainted in the next three years, the Corps has said they will likely need to be replaced at a much higher cost. The dam also needs other equipment replaced, but a failure of its navigation equipment could create a negative economic impact of $1.3 million a day, officials say.
At other locations, work is needed to replace electrical lighting, sump pumps, hydraulic systems and corroded locks.
The Newt Graham facility, the most inland lock on the system, needs $4.5 million to fix walls and equipment from repeated tow boat strikes.
Officials from ports along the waterway in Oklahoma and Arkansas, along with the Corps, have created a group to encourage federal officials to move quicker to fix the backlog of projects. The group is also working with local governments and may even ask state legislatures for funds if they can't persuade lawmakers in Washington to act, said Port of Catoosa officials.
"The port is doing well," Portiss said. "We look forward to the port's continued growth, and that's the good news.
"The bad news is that our waterway is in trouble."
Critical projects needed along the Arkansas River Navigation System
|Wilbur D. Mills Dam||Tichnor, Ark.||$14.5 million|
|Robert S. Kerr Lock||Sallisaw||$9.5 million|
|Webbers Falls Lock||Webbers Falls||$6.5 million|
|Newt Graham Dam||Broken Arrow||$4.5 million|
|Montgomery Point||Tichnor, Ark.||$2.1 million|
Original Print Headline: Port execs say repairs needed for locks, dams
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380