- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) - Northeastern Oklahoma officials and business leaders say a backlog of $100 million in maintenance work on a waterway system is threatening commerce.

They told U.S. House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster that the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System’s bottleneck of repairs is critical, meaning each item listed for needed maintenance has a 50 percent chance of failure within five years. Tulsa Port of Catoosa director Bob Portiss said it’s a pile-up of work “that’s getting worse.”

In August, an Arkansas official warned about the possibility of traffic stopping on the system for 100 days or more, the Tulsa World reported (https://bit.ly/1qiMtx3 ).

Clint Herring, general manager of CF Industries’ Verdigris Nitrogen Complex, said at a Tuesday morning meeting with Shuster that if it’s shut down that long, “you might as well not bring it back.”

Webco CEO Dana Webber said the steel her company ships on the navigation system can’t easily be shifted or transported by rails or trucks.

“The trucking system is already taxed,” she said. “We don’t have enough trucks. We don’t have enough drivers.”

For the second time in 18 months, Shuster visited the Oklahoma portion of the navigation system. He was accompanied by Second District U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, a member of Shuster’s committee, and former First District U.S. Rep. John Sullivan.

“The big issue is money,” Shuster said. “There is just not enough money to go around for everything we want to do.”

He said work on the Ohio River was “sucking all the money” out of inland waterway operations and maintenance. Shuster said he hopes the situation will ease up soon.

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Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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