Maintenance Backlog Could Dock Oil-Fueled Shipping Boom at Oklahoma Port

  • Joe Wertz

The oil boom and pipeline bottleneck has been good to Oklahoma’s Port of Catoosa.

The inland river-port — which connects Oklahoma to the Mississippi River — only recently started shipping crude. The first barges bearing oil left the port in July 2011, the Journal Record’s D. Ray Tuttle reports. Now crude is fueling a shipping frenzy at the port, which set an annual record for shipping totals in 2012, Public Radio Tulsa’s Catherine Roberts reports.

But a looming maintenance backlog could choke the flow, according to the Journal:

The bad news is that the 485-mile McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, from Tulsa to the Mississippi River, is in jeopardy due to a $100 million maintenance backlog, said Bob Portiss, port director.

Critical repairs and maintenance, which have been deferred due to lack of sufficient funds and resources, are long overdue, Portiss said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers defines “Critical maintenance” projects as those that have a 50 percent chance of failure within five years, David Page, chairman of the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority tells the Journal.

“If that happens, the resulting closure of the navigation system would cost the state of Oklahoma an estimated $2 million a day,” Page said. “Reductions in operations and maintenance appropriations, year after year, are taking their toll on the health of our waterways.”