Five years out: 50 percent chance of failure
By: Sarah Mccallion – Tulsa Business Journal
“We have to have about $100 million in repairs made on this navigation system at various locks and dams and features of the system along the way. If we don’t get that done, there’s a 50 percent chance of failure of any of those portions within the next five years,” Port Authority Marketing and Communications Manager Jeff Yowell told TB&LN of the Tulsa Port of Catoosa.
The entire Oklahoma and Arkansas system runs approximately 445 miles from the Mississippi River to the head of navigation with 11.7 million tons of annual cargo valued at $3.7 billion, as of 2012 estimates. Of that cargo, 5.75 million tons, valued at $2.1 billion, is from the Oklahoma segment alone.
According to Yowell, barges in the port can each hold up to 1,500 tons of cargo, equivalent to 60 semi-trucks or 15 rail cars.
“With just one boat you’re already saving a lot because you’ve replaced so many trucks,” he said. “But consider this: One boat, with three diesel engines and a crew of five to eight, can just as easily push 12 of these barges at one time on this navigation system. Now you’re talking about one boat pushing 720 truckloads worth of cargo.”
Yowell continued that one business with locations in Sand Springs and Pennsylvania told him it is cheaper for them to transport their steel from Pennsylvania to Tulsa via waterway, than it is for them to transport the steel from the mills in Pennsylvania to the Pennsylvania headquarters.
As one of the nation’s largest inland ports, to accommodate incoming and outgoing goods the Tulsa Port of Catoosa spreads across a 2,500-acre complex complete with industrial sites for lease, a foreign trade zone, seven liquid cargo loading and unloading areas with a capacity of approximately 1 million barrels, a 5.5 million-bushel grain handling facility, an overhead traveling crane with a capacity of 200 tons, three locomotives, weigh scales, natural gas and is serviced by three Class I railways and numerous trucking firms. Of the 2,500 acres, there remains only approximately 150 acres left available for lease.
As an important part of Oklahoma and the region’s economy, Yowell said the port authority and other entities are working toward a solution for the issue of replacing and repairing parts. One way the problem is being addressed is through the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s OneVoice Legislative Agenda 2014 Federal Priorities, which calls for reauthorization of the Water Resource Development Act.
“The Tulsa Port of Catoosa adds significant value to our regional economy and to business recruitment efforts in northeast Oklahoma,” said Justin McLaughlin, senior vice president of Economic Development, Tulsa Regional Chamber. “Assets such as the port make the Tulsa area a thriving intermodal transportation hub and greatly enhance our competitiveness among peer regions.”
“Versions of [the WRDA] bill have been passed in both the House and the Senate but the bill has remained mired in joint committee negotiations since October 2013,” said Yowell. “This bill is critical to the nation and needs to move forward.”