It was a big year with more than 2.55 million tons moving through port.

Growth, recovery, milestones and optimism were the themes of 2018 State of the Port speech this week by Chip McElroy, chairman of the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority.

In 2017, more than 2.55 million tons moved through the port, making it the third-best in its 46-year history, he said. Those shipments along the Arkansas Waterway required 1,366 barges — the equivalent of more than 100,000 trucks — and 10,084 freight cars moved over the port’s 15 miles of tracks during the year.

“The Tulsa Port of Catoosa is one of the nation’s premier inland waterway ports, generating economic benefits not just over the 70 industrial facilities located here, but to the region, the state and the nation,” McElroy said.

Also arriving at the port in 2017 were Samuel, Son & Co., which operates a steel processing center; C&S Tech Services, manufacturer of truck bodies; and Port Coney’s, a new eatery. Three other firms at the port — Advance Research Chemicals, Coveris and Kelvion — expanded or are currently expanding their facilities.

McElroy also noted that TMK-IPSCO, which had been at the port since 1980, had to cease processing oil field equipment in 2015 but was able to resume operations last year at its 55-acre site with more than 160 jobs.

Employment at the port rose to 3,201 by the end of 2017, up from 2,632 in 2015.

Challenges, however, threaten not only future growth “but our very existence as a port,” McElroy said.

• A potential significant flood at the Three Rivers area near the confluence of the Arkansas, White and Mississippi rivers in eastern Arkansas could cause of the loss of navigation along the entire Arkansas Waterway “for an indeterminate amount of time.”

• The current $150 million backlog of critically needed maintenance work on the waterway. The items have a 50 percent chance of failure within the next five years.

• Deepening of the channel from 9 to 12 feet, which would allow increased loads on each barge and make the Arkansas Waterway competitive with other rivers.

Original article published by the Tulsa World can be found here.

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