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$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.

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.

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:

USACE Galveston District launches real estate application; streamlines federally-controlled property process

GALVESTON, Texas (Dec. 14, 2015) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District’s Real Estate Division launched an updated real estate application earlier this month that outlines the process required to use federally-controlled property located within the USACE Galveston District.

“Applicants were faced with the daunting task of navigating through an unfamiliar process to request the use of federal lands,” said Jody Rowe, the Technical Services Branch Chief for the USACE Galveston District Real Estate Division. “We understand that this will always be a complex process but we’re working to clarify the process so that applicants are in the best position to have their applications evaluated.”

According to Rowe, nearly 300 active requests to use a portion of the 283,000 acres of federally-controlled land overseen by the district are managed each year, which range from licenses for temporary uses to requests for easements to build on federal land.

“Staff identified areas in the Real Estate Outgrant Program that if better understood by the applicant in advance, could potentially save applicants’ time and taxpayers’ tens of thousands of dollars annually,” said Rowe. “Taking into consideration that there are a multitude of variables that need to be evaluated with each request, we redesigned the application to include information that guides applicants through the process step by step.”

Even with these changes, Rowe adds that there is still more that needs to be done to familiarize applicants with the Real Estate Outgrant Program – a program to authorize the use federal property managed by the USACE Galveston District and establish the timeframe, consideration, conditions and restrictions of its use by way of an outgrant instrument, such as a lease, easement or a license.

“We recognize that applicants can feel overwhelmed by this process and we are planning a series of virtual training webinars in 2016 to help answer additional questions,” said Rowe. “Real estate, regulatory and navigation staff will be on hand to offer a Pipeline Webinar in March 2016 and a Navigation Construction Webinar in June 2016.”

In addition to the webinars, Rowe notes that staff will be working to launch an e-newsletter and instructional videos to address frequently asked questions. Additionally, she suggests that applicants call the Real Estate Division at 409-766-3800, email staff at mil or visit the Real Estate Division webpage at

The USACE Galveston District was established in 1880 as the first engineer district in Texas to oversee river and harbor improvements. The district is directly responsible for maintaining more than 1,000 miles of channel, including 270 miles of deep draft and 750 miles of shallow draft as well as the Colorado River Locks and Brazos River Floodgates.

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The official U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Southwestern Division publication