Arkansas River Navigation channel could be getting an overhaul

Thursday, September 25th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

It's been an economic lifeline for Tulsa for more than 30 years. Now the Arkansas River Navigation Channel might be getting a major overhaul.

As News on 6 business reporter Steve Berg tells us, officials are thinking deep. Barges and cargo arrive all the time at Tulsa's Port of Catoosa.

But Tulsa is not always their original destination. “Barges today can be bought and sold several times before they reach a destination." Deputy Port Director Dick Voth says cargo is even sold in transit, so sometimes a barge will be headed for a port on the Mississippi and then diverted to Tulsa, but there's a problem with that. "Barges traveling the Mississippi can carry 12-foot of cargo, a heavier payload. The disadvantage we have is they can't be diverted up the Arkansas River because we're limited to a 9-foot draft.”

This week, Congress passed a bill that authorizes the deepening of the Arkansas River Navigation System from 9 feet to 12 feet. Officials say it's vital to keep the Port of Catoosa competitive. "A barge for example can bring 40% more cargo in now after we get this done, which would be significant, would mean jobs and economic development."

Barges haven't necessarily grown in popularity over the years, but what has changed is that they're growing in size and growing in weight. "Barges are getting bigger and heavier. The standard draft up until now has been 9 feet and they've moved now to 12 feet."

The Port of Catoosa is a key part of the effort to land the Boeing 7E7 assembly plant, but Voth says they can already handle the cargo being specified by Boeing. These improvements will allow them to seek out still more industries.

First District Congressman John Sullivan's office says the deepening project is expected to cost about $40-million.