The MKARNS: Steam for an Economic Engine
Tulsa, OKLA. – The Tulsa Port of Catoosa is often described by many supporters as the “economic engine of Northeast Oklahoma.” The multimodal shipping center is located on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) and provides an estimated 3,000 jobs and $300 million annually to the state. Just last month, there were 194,494 tons of cargo shipped in and out of the Port.
The Tulsa Port is the most inland stop on a 445-mile waterway linking Oklahoma and surrounding states with ports across the nation. The MKARNS officially opened June 5, 1971 with a historic visit from then-President Richard M. Nixon for the opening ceremony. The navigation system was built by and is still operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Tulsa Port’s success since 1971 is due in part to a long history of “champions of change,” including former Senator Robert S. Kerr (D-OK) and Senator John L. McClellan (D-AR). Senators Kerr and McClellan championed the project through years of development and worked to get the federal funding, prompting Congress to name the system after them.
While the navigation system is most commonly known for its waterway shipping capabilities, it also provides other unique benefits that ensure our state’s sustainability.
According to the Corps of Engineers the most important benefit of the MKARNS is flood control and the estimated $15 billion in flood damages that are prevented because of it. Upstream lakes such as Oologah, Keystone and Eufala store potential flood water, which would otherwise threaten farm lands and developments.
Another significant benefit of the MKARNS is hydroelectric power which is a form of energy generated by the conversion of free-falling water to electricity. Hydroelectric power is generated at many of the dams along the navigation system. This form of energy powers approximately 7 million homes and business.
Recreational experiences also contribute to the quality of life and the economic development of our state along the waterway. There are more than 100 recreation areas, ranging in size from 10 to 900 acres along the shoreline, including boating, fishing, camping, hiking, natural trails, playgrounds and sports areas. The Corps of Engineers operates more recreation areas than any other federal or state agency outside of the Department of the Interior.
More than 185,000 acres of land and water along the waterway are managed by Federal, Arkansas and Oklahoma state agencies to maintain, nurture and attract fish and wildlife.
Sharing information about the many benefits of the system help tell the story of why maintaining the navigating system is critical to ensuring the Tulsa Port’s continued success along with the success of the region, the states of Oklahoma, Arkansas and other surrounding states. Preserving the MKARNS and all its benefits will continue to provide many opportunities to champion change for the future.