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Navigation along Arkansas River Navigation System stopped during flooding

Posted at 4:34 PM, Jun 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-21 18:46:36-04

CATOOSA, OK (KJRH) — As rivers continue to rush in flood stage in Oklahoma all the way down to Mississippi, hundreds of barges with thousands of tons of material are being held at a standstill. Barges can carry up to 1,500 tons of material on the Arkansas River Navigation System, but all of them right now are stopped.

Because of flooding in the river's reservoirs, those barges could sit for as little as a month, or as many as several months. The reason is most of the river’s 26 reservoirs are in flood stage.

Officials say the Army Corps of Engineers has to get the water through the system before navigation can open up. Roughly 80 barges are waiting in the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, and around 250 in total are sitting throughout the system.

The problem right now is there’s no way to know just how much this could affect us in the long run, but the longer those barges stay there, the longer we could feel the effects down the road.

"As a whole, there’s indications it’s $2 to 3 million a day if the system is shut down, said Deputy Port Director Daniel Grisham. "If the water’s traveling faster than you can move a boat, you can’t control it.”

According to a 2015 study, the whole navigation system contributes $8.5 billion in sales every year, with a $300 million impact from the Port of Catoosa alone. The best-case scenario is the waterways open back up in a month, but that would require perfect conditions after a month of record flooding.

Grisham says the barges could be back underway by July 16, but it could take months if the system keeps getting hit with rainfall.

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