The impact of near historic flooding a year ago along the Arkansas River continues to ripple through the Port of Muskogee.

Barge tonnage recorded during the first six months of the year eked out a gain when compared to the same period a year ago. But flooding shut down the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System the final six weeks of the first half of 2019. 

Port Director Scott Robinson said shipments along the inland navigation system are "picking up" and remain "in line with our projections used for budget purpose." There are two issues, he said, that could prove to be a challenge going forward.

"One is some loss of confidence among companies who rely solely on barge transportation who were affected by flooding back in 2019," Robinson said. "But also river conditions — it's difficult in some areas — there is serious shoaling in parts of the river."

Barge tonnage reported for the first half of the calendar year totaled 258,640 tons. That represents a 20.63% increase from the 205,288 tons reported during the first six months of 2019. 

Imports consisted primarily of steel coils, calcine coke and fertilizer, which arrived along with four other commodities on 20 barges. The only commodity exported in June was scrap steel, which left the Port of Muskogee on two barges.

Robinson said while "working on the river is always challenging," he remains confident about the viability of the inland navigation system and its value to stakeholders. Robinson said with regard to revenue, he is more concerned about railroad shipments. 

"Vallourec is our largest rail customer at the port — they have been the largest rail customer for some time," Robinson said about a manufacturer that laid off most of its Muskogee workforce shortly as the novel coronavirus washed across the American landscape. "I think that's going to turn around, but it's going to take some time."

June rail tonnage at the port totaled 7,777 tons, a 96.98% decrease from the 15,318 tons shipped by rail during the same period a year ago. Year-to-date rail cargo totaled 129,422 tons, up 2.48% from the 126,208 tons reported during the first six months of 2019.

Truck cargo tracked in June totaled 65,165 tons, which was up 57.45% from the 27,725 tons reported for the same month in 2019. Year-to-date truck tonnage totaling 415,863 tons represents year-to-date 10.58% decrease, down 43,986 tons from the 459,849 tons reported during the first half of 2019.

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