WRRDA Bill Will Expand Port of CatoosaWed, 11 Jun 2014 13:00:49 CDT
When you think of ports and the shipping of goods, most Americans will think of the east or west coast or even the Gulf of Mexico, but Oklahoma is not known for its role in the nation's inland waterwater system. The Port of Catoosa is one of the largest inland waterports in the country, where goods are shipped up and down the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers.
When Congress began debating the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014, Second District Congressman Markwayne Mullin made sure his collegues understood Oklahoma and the Port has an important role in moving goods and the nation's economy and how the Port of Catoosa is in desperate need for repairs.
"The core had came out with a report a few years ago that said the waterway, the navigational system, had a 50 - 50 chance of failing within the next five years," Mullin said. "There was 100 - million dollar backlog on just the navigational system and 63 million dollars of critical repairs needed."
Speaking at a Press Conference Friday at the Port of Catoosa, Mullin shared how the port is central for trade with its ability to offer access to rail, transportation by trucks and by water. Currently the Port of Catoosa can handle a maximium of 100 barges, but there have been times when there have 125 barges. (You can listen to Congressman Mullin's comments below).
"When you drive down by the canal, you can literally walk across the canal with barges," Port of Catoosa Director Bob Portis said. "I don't like seeing that, I mean it looks good, but the fact remains its a very inefficient to operate."
Efforts to repair the nation's waterways system has gained support from the agricultural industry, oil and gas as well as the durable goods industry, because of how waterways impacts the price of consumer goods and products.
"We like to talk the fact we can move three bushels of grain to the gulf cheaper than you can buy a first class postage stamp," Portis said.
"With the advent of waterway transporation, we reduced our transportation costs by 15 percent and remove waterways and that 15 percent will disappear," Portis said. "We can't afford to lose it."
While there is a lot of political battles in Washington DC., WRRDA is the only legislation to get zero opposition when the bill came out of committee.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama signed the WRRDA Bill into law. Mullin says this legislation will bring stability and confidence into the nation's waterway system.
Expansion of the Port of Catoosa will begin this year. The expansion project could cost as much as $10 million dollars to build it. Portis says the expansion project will be done in phases in the next four to five years.
"It impacts Oklahoma, if this navigational canal were to stop it makes a drastic impact on our economy," Mullin said. "It effects 8-thousand jobs, it effects $5 billion dollars worth of investment and $2 million dollars just in our economy, per day."
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