Oklahoma’s congressional delegation was joined by others from Kansas and Arkansas in urging the Army Corps of Engineers to spend more funding for improvements to the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.
Led by Sen. Jim Inhofe, the delegations sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget and the Corps urging them to give priority to the funding, especially a deepening of the system in order to expand its ability to move freight.
“The future economic viability of the MKARNS is at risk as there is currently more than a $300 million backlog in critical maintenance along the entire 50-year-old system,” wrote the delegations.
The Senators and Representatives said by deepening the system from 9 to 12 feet, the capacity for barge traffic would increase by nearly 400 tons and increase the value of business sales by more than $250 million. In an average year, 12 million tons of commerce are moved through the 455-mile system that travels through Oklahoma and Arkansas to the Mississippi River. The typical commerce is valued at more than $3.5 billion.
Other signers on the letter include: Senators James Lankford (OK), Roger Marshall (KS), Jerry Moran (KS), John Boozman (AR), Tom Cotton (AR), and Representatives Kevin Hern (OK-01), Frank Lucas (OK-04), Tom Cole (OK-03), Markwayne Mullin (OK-02), Stephanie Bice (OK-05), Rick Crawford (AR-01), French Hill (AR-02), Steve Womack (AR-03), and Bruce Westerman (AR-04).
The full text of the letter can be found here and below:
April 27, 2022
Dear Director Young, Assistant Secretary Connor, and LTG Spellmon:
We urge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to prioritize and commit additional funding to the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS), including deepening, and operations and maintenance of the MKARNS in the allocation of additional funding provided by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022.
The MKARNS, which opened as an official inland waterway system in 1971, originates at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa and runs 445 miles through Oklahoma and Arkansas to the Mississippi River. Inland waterways barge transportation is the safest, most economical, and fuel-efficient way to move our nation’s goods for use domestically and for export. On a single gallon of fuel, one barge can move freight more than four times farther than trucks. In a typical year, approximately 12 million tons of commerce traverses the MKARNS, valued at more than $3.5 billion. However, if the MKARNS was deepened from 9-feet to 12-feet, the capacity of each barge could increase by nearly 400 tons and increase the value of business sales by over $250 million.
Through enactment of the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, Congress provided the Corps with flexibility to continue carrying out construction of the deepening of the MKARNS. Continuing the deepening of the MKARNS would directly benefit the 56,000 jobs for surrounding farmers, manufacturers, and other producers who contribute over $8 billion in sales and nearly $300 million in state and local tax revenue as a result of the system’s efficient operation. We thank you for allocating $92.6 million to begin construction of MKARNS deepening, and urge you to commit additional funding this year to ensure the timely completion of this important project.
The future economic viability of the MKARNS is at risk as there is currently more than a $300 million backlog in critical maintenance along the entire 50-year-old system. This includes locks, dams, and other important equipment that is deteriorating to dangerous conditions. The MKARNS is vital to the economies of Oklahoma and Arkansas, as well as Kansas, which sends or receives 49 percent of the tonnage coming through Oklahoma ports. A critical failure on the system could result in it being shut down for months and even a temporary shutdown could put future use of the system at risk, as businesses would no longer see the MKARNS as reliable and would likely find other means to transport their goods. Losing navigation on the entire MKARNS would cost over 6,000 jobs and cause national GDP to decline by $723 million.
As the Corps develops the Fiscal Year 2022 Work Plan, we respectfully request your support in providing additional funding for deepening, and operations and maintenance of the MKARNS. We look forward to working with you on improving our nation’s vital inland waterways infrastructure.