Record flooding could close Arkansas River port operations for many months


The port of Fort Smith is underwater. Port operations in Van Buren are either underwater or will be by Sunday (May 26). The port of Little Rock is likely to remain dry, but potentially record flooding means all Arkansas River ports may not see business as usual for many months.

Bryan Day, executive director of the port of Little Rock, told Talk Business & Politics he is not worried about flooding at the port. They have pulled 85 barges into a slackwater harbor and secured them.

“But we’re worried. Don’t get me wrong,” Day said. “It [flooding] will impact tonnage on the river and it will impact the moving of resources, but it should start moving again if it will ever stop raining.”

Tonnage on the river totaled 3.897 million tons in the first four months of 2019, just ahead of the 3.88 million tons during the same period in 2018. A total of 10.932 million tons were shipped in all of 2018, down from 11.918 million in 2017 and from 11.542 million tons in 2016.

The Arkansas River system (McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, or MKARNS) is 445 miles long and stretches from the confluence of the Mississippi River to the Port of Catoosa near Tulsa, Okla. The controlled waterway has 18 locks and dams, with 13 in Arkansas and five in Oklahoma. The river also has five ports: Pine Bluff, Little Rock, Fort Smith, Muskogee, Okla., and the Tulsa Port of Catoosa in Oklahoma.

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