MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

November 21, 2012

Port ends contract with marina

Operator wants out because of coal dust

By Cathy Spaulding

— The Muskogee City-County Port Authority is terminating its lease with Arrowhead Investment and Development Co., which has operated the harbor’s marina since 2005.

The Authority also agreed on Tuesday to pay more than $350,000 to acquire docks, lifts and other improvements Arrowhead made at the marina.

The marina’s owner recently told the port he wants to terminate the lease because of a problem with coal dust on docks and boats, said Port of Muskogee Director Scott Robinson.

Robinson told Port Authority members Tuesday that marina owner Joe Harwood told him a month ago the marina was not successful because of the coal dust. Three Forks Harbor is located just north of the OG&E plant by the Arkansas River.

“Another issue was the trains blocking the traffic” going to the marina, Robinson said, referring to coal trains going to and from the plant. The track crosses the only road leading to the marina and Three Forks Harbor. Robinson said inbound trains could block traffic for 15 to 20 minutes and outbound trains block traffic for more than 40 minutes.

“The marina has not been successful,” Robinson said.

Harwood was not at the Authority’s meeting and could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

An information packet reviewed at the meeting said Arrowhead installed docks, managed the fuel system, ship’s store, a travel lift fuel tanks and other improvements.

The Port Authority agreed to acquire leasehold improvements from Harwood.

“His offer is for $370,000, half of what he invested in the docks,” Robinson said. “If we do not want to do it, the docks would be removed.”

Robinson said the Port has had a good relationship with Arrowhead despite the presence of the coal dust.

“I couldn’t swear we’ll be as successful as Arrowhead was,” the director said.

Robinson said he had talked to OG&E about problems with the coal dust. Authority members said the problem has been discussed for at least two years.

In October 2010, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality ordered OG&E to reduce the amount of coal dust being emitted from its plant. Electric company officials later said they complied with the state’s order.

“We have taken a number of steps to reduce the potential for coal dust,” OG&E spokesman Brian Alford said on Tuesday. “We have reduced the size of our coal pile, added wetting agent to reduce the potential for coal dust and added monitoring equipment. There is no indication the plant is exceeding levels.”

 Alford said the plant is not responsible for train traffic and said the port should take the matter up with the railroad.

He said the plant has been burning coal since the 1920s.

“We had made it abundantly clear that a marina might not be the best option for that location,” Alford said.

Bill Barnes of Tulsa, who rents a boat slip at the marina, said he’s had a problem with coal dust on his boat and getting into his equipment.  He said the marina has not done a good job of washing the boats.

The Port Authority also approved a financing agreement on the Arrowhead leasehold improvements.

Robinson said the Port could break even on operating costs of the marina, but might not recover the initial capital costs of acquiring the improvements.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.