September 2018 By Waterways Journal
The McClellan–Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) was the largest civil works project undertaken by the Corps at the time. It was originally authorized by Congress as early as July 24, 1946, in that year’s Rivers and Harbors Act (it was known as the Arkansas-Verdigris Waterway prior to legislation changing its name). The plan included hydropower, flood control, recreation, and navigation from Catoosa, Okla., to the Mississippi River. Although reservoirs and other parts of the system began to be built in the 1950s, the system as a whole was formally dedicated only in 1971.
Total tonnage through the Three Rivers project area, where the Arkansas, White and Mississippi rivers approach closely to each other has grown from 1.82 million tons in 1971 to more than 9 million by 2007, according to the Corps. Top commodities moving on the system are fertilizer, iron and steel, coke and coal, farm goods, building materials, manufacturing ores and chemicals, and distillate and fuels oils.
The waterway system is a distribution hub for fertilizer to Midwestern farmers. Since 2001, fertilizer deliveries to MKARNS ports have steadily increased, despite the 2008 financial crisis. Likewise, iron and steel product movements have increased by about 2.9 percent per outbound tonnage from the MKARNS system heads for Gulf ports for export; export soybean freight grew at an average rate of 9.8 percent from 2001 through 2014.
The system also provides flood control benefits that prevented more than $1.3 billion in damages from 1974 through 1987. More than 1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity…