OHP, Coast Guard Team Up To Patrol Barges On Arkansas River

Tuesday, December 3rd 2013, 11:31 pm
By: Tess Maune

It's the Oklahoma waterway that sees billions of dollars in business, but along with the cargo, troopers say it could be a prime place for criminal activity.

So, for the first time, the state troopers are joining forces with the U.S. Coast Guard to patrol the more desolate stretches of water.

The McClellan-Kerr Navigation System is the Arkansas River's version of a superhighway.

"You've got in the billions of commerce that travel up and down these rivers," said David Edwards, with the U.S. Coast Guard.

More than 2 million tons of cargo, vital to the country, passes through the Port of Catoosa each year. But the Oklahoma Highway Patrol says, with three major highways crossing the river, drug and even sex trafficking could be making their way through, as well.

"It stands to reason that if we have things coming up and down our highways, there's a chance that things could be coming up and down this waterway," said Trooper Ben Chapman, with OHP's marine enforcement division.

OHP Marine Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard patrol the channel on occasion, but this week, for the first time, they're doing it side-by-side.

"It's just a really good way for us to get out here and to know what's going on up and down these waterways," said OHP Captain George Brown.

A Coast Guard unit, stationed out of Memphis, Tennessee, has been training with OHP's Marine Enforcement on ways to ensure safety on the navigation channel. Guardsmen and troopers are searching all barges and boats between the Port of Catoosa and the Arkansas state line.

"We try to keep a vigilant eye for anything that would be out of the ordinary, and that's where we do rely a lot on the local law enforcement. You know, they're gonna know what's out of the norm," Edwards said.

It's not a problem for the barge Curtis Rambo works on.

"We run a tight ship, we make sure everything stays the way it's supposed to be on there and make sure we get up and down the river safely," Rambo said.

The new partnership, on this day, kept the cargo moving and the crime out.