Mississippi River Flooding Affecting Port Of Catoosa Operations

Sunday, May 8th 2011, 5:00 pm
By: News On 6

Dan Bewley, News On 6

CATOOSA, Oklahoma -- Businesses here in Tulsa are keeping a close eye on the Mississippi River too. The Port of Catoosa is the shipping center for more than 5 dozen companies.

As the Mississippi River continues to rise, the water is spilling over its banks and causing major headaches up and down its river system.

The affects are even being felt here in Tulsa.

"My main concern is what impact is it having on our customers and their customers," said Port of Catoosa Director Bob Portiss.

Sixty companies work out the port, everything from agricultural to metal fabricators, and anywhere between 6 and 20 barges leave here every two weeks.

They travel on the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System. Its waters trek 445 river miles from the port to the Mississippi River.

Portiss says the flooding along the Mississippi River will probably not raise the waters at the port, but he says it has limited the travel for the companies who ship out of here.

For example, a boat at the port had just passed the danger point when the Mississippi flooded. Its crew is now stuck here for the next few days.

Portiss also says the Corps of Engineers is only allowing travel from Tulsa to get as far east as Little Rock, Arkansas. He says if there's good news it's that the port is in a slow period.

The infrastructure for transporting crude oil is still being built and we're a few weeks from when farmers need fertilizer.

"Right now we're not going to start harvesting wheat until the end of May so, as a consequence, no fertilizer is being applied to any of the farm fields right now," Portiss said. "So if it is going to happen this is a good time for it to happen for them...that's the elevators and the fertilizer facilities."

Portiss expects the travel restrictions to stay in place until, at least, May 25th. He also emphasizes there are other options for transporting the products, such as rail or trucks, in case it lasts longer.