Category Archives: MKARNS

McClellan–Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System

$4 billion flowing through the region

By Jay Townsend

The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System was the largest civil works project ever undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the time of its opening. President Richard Nixon dedicated the navigation system at the Port of Catoosa in Oklahoma on June 5, 1971. Today, about 12 million tons of cargo are shipped annually generating $4 billion in economic benefit to the region. That is a tremendous amount of industrial, chemical, agricultural and construction commodities that weren’t transported on our nation’s already congested roadways; reducing greenhouse gas emissions. More than 4 million tons of commodities were shipped from August to November 2015.

A towboat approaches Ozark Lock and Dam
A towboat approaches Ozark Lock and Dam

That’s roughly the same as 2013 and 2014. Reaching similar shipping numbers is an accomplishment considering the navigation industry was set back this spring by repeated heavy rains. The river’s swollen current collected everything in its path and flushed fields of debris downstream.

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Toad Suck Lock

May 2015 was the wettest month on record in the lower 48 states. Arkansas River flows exceeded 300,000 cubic feet per second in some of the navigation pools. Because of high water and unsafe conditions from May thru July commodities shipped on the river totaled 1.4 million tons, down 1.2 million from last year’s 2.6 million.

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Dardanelle Dam 300,000 cubic feet per second

Minus scheduled maintenance, the shipping industry has been open for business since the flows receded below 150,000 c.f.s. in late July, early August.

Montgomery Point Lock and Dam maintenance 2015
Montgomery Point Lock and Dam maintenance 2015

When Mother Nature doesn’t interfere, the navigation system provides year-round navigation from the Mississippi River in southeast Arkansas, westward to Catoosa, Oklahoma, near Tulsa. The 445-mile system links ports in Arkansas and Oklahoma with the ports of the world. The locks and dams were built to keep the water deep enough for barges during low flows.

Motor Vessel Miss Alex enters Ozark Lock.

A single barge carries the equivalent of 58 tractor-trailers. A motor vessel pushing a 15-barge tow carries the equivalent of 870 semi-truck loads. That’s a lot of 18-wheelers taken off the already congested roadways. You can view the MKARNS tonnage report here: http://www.swl.usace.army.mil/Missions/Navigation.aspx


Little Rock District hosts MKARNS exercise

By Jay Woods The Little Rock District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently held a table top exercise that stressed coordination, communications and integration of the Corps’ response with external emergency management agencies and stakeholders.

Little Rock District conduct an MKARNS table top exercise on Nov. 19
Little Rock District conduct an MKARNS table top exercise on Nov. 19

The 2015 McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System table top exercise was a moderator-led event designed to present realistic problems that could happen along the navigation system. The exercise was based on a past high water event that had happened on the Arkansas River.  It was designed to challenge the agencies and stakeholders and caused the participants to think about a number of things that could be happening because of this event. Little Rock District Holds MKARNS Exercise “We are only successful as we work through these types of events based off of the strengths of the relationships and partnerships,” said Brig. Gen. David C. Hill, commander, Southwestern Division. About 80 people from several federal and state government agencies and our civilian stakeholders participated in the table top exercise.  Outside agencies included the U.S. Coast Guard, National Weather Service, and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. Little Rock District Holds MKARNS Exercise “Today is really about understanding the authorities and capabilities of each of the agencies and organizations involved in the exercise and then building on the partnerships,” said Capt. Timothy J. Wendt, U.S. Coast Guard sector commander, Lower Mississippi River. One of the objectives of the exercise is to use emergency contracting and to demonstrate the use of private emergency assistance on the MKARNS with the intent of shaping the Implementation Guidance for WRRDA 14 Section 1024.  This allows the Corps to accept support from private industry. “The first thing you have to do is understand the strengths and weaknesses.  The strength of industry is you can do a handshake and then go do something.”  Said Col. Courtney W. Paul, commander, Little Rock District.  “In government for every rule there is a reason for the government doing certain things.  Since we are dealing with taxpayer money there are a lot of controls to ensure there is no financial abuse.” “This was another reminder for me of the knowledge, skills and, experience in this room are incredible,” Hill said.  “I am confident that we can engineer solutions to the toughest challenges on this system.” The Chief of Staff of the Army recently issued his initial marching orders.  He stated his number one priority was readiness and this exercise seemed to have met his intent. “From a context of USACE today, this exercise is about readiness,” Hill said.  “Readiness to our responsibilities on this system and to respond in case of an emergency and to well serve the public that we are charged to serve.”