The Director of the Muskogee City-County Port Authority warned the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this week a critical backlog of maintenance is growing along the 445-mile stretch of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.
Scott Robinson was among a handful who testified during a committee hearing into “America’s Water Infrastructure Needs and Challenges.”
He told the Senators the absence of regularly enacted Water Resources Development Act legislation from 2001 to 2013 “was troubling, created tension among the nation’s waterway stakeholders and may have caused serious harm to an important infrastructure” along the navigation system.
“There is a serious and growing backlog of deferred maintenance on the MKARNS, $143 million of which is deemed critical by the Corps of Engineers,” stated Robinson in his testimony. “The Corps defines critical maintenance as those non-routine maintenance items that have a 50 percent chance of failure within 5 years.”
He pointed out that in March 2017, there were 42 such maintenance items.
“Even more alarming, the critical backlog is growing rapidly,” continued Robinson. “We are fixing critically important infrastructure as close to failure as possible and, in some cases, after it fails and on an emergency basis.”
Robinson explained why the improvements are critical. Jusst in the 53 miles of waterway between Catoosa and Muskogee, 85 industries are located with an investment of $5 billion in facilities and 8,000 created jobs. Their combined annual payroll is $320 million.
Along the entire stretch of the MKARNS, there is an economic impact of $8.5 billion in sales, 55,872 jobs and $289 million in taxes to the national economy.
Robinson was introduced by Sen. Jim Inhofe, the former chairman of the Committee who pointed out that Oklahoma is the nation’s most inland warm water port.
Committee chairman, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) opened the hearing with a call for bipartisan work on solving the nation’s water problems.
“Unlike other contentious issues, historically, Republicans and Democratic members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have been able to work together and pass WRDA legislation,” he said.“It does so because regardless of party affiliation, we understand that these kinds of investments are far too important to our economy and security to fall victim to partisan politics.