Officials estimate the cost of repairing 60 railroad cars inundated by floodwaters at the Port of Muskogee could exceed $1.5 million.
Any cargo on those cars that might have been damaged, if any, would be an additional cost. It remained unclear who bears risk of liability.
Port Director Scott Robinson said with regard to the risk of liability, damage to the railroad cars "may be the most significant cost of the flood." He said this past week the wheel-sets on every railroad car inundated by floodwater must be replaced before Union Pacific "will take them back."
Operations Manager Lewis McLemore said the concern is that sediment from floodwaters infiltrated the bearings, which would wear out quickly at higher speeds outside the port. The wheel-sets include the hubs and wheels, bearing-and-race assembly is built in the wheels and must be replaced as a unit.
Robinson said it is believed the responsibility of replacing the wheel-sets rests with owners of the railroad cars. Robinson told directors of Muskogee City-County Port Authority he didn't "think we have any responsibility for the cars" or "any responsibility for the cargo."
"It is reasonable to believe that whoever has care, custody and control of those cars is responsible for changing out the wheel sets on those cars," Robinson said. "We are hoping it comes from UP or industry, but if it comes from us we have insurance for that."
Robinson said he believes the port authority's cost for the deductible would amount to $25,000 should it be determined the port is liable for damage to the cars caused by flooding.
There were 90 rail cars trapped at the Port of Muskogee when many parts of it were inundated by what Robinson described as “unprecedented flows and river stages and elevations on the Arkansas River.” Preliminary data show the river crested May 26 at 46.39 feet, which is 6.79 feet above levels recorded during the 1986 flood, one said to be considered by many hydrologists as the flood of record.
McLemore said the 60 cars damaged by flooding can be relocated within the port as workers repair the railroad infrastructure damaged by the flood. That work, which began late last week, is expected to be completed at a cost of about $329,000 — officials expect much of that will be reimbursed by federal disaster aid for public infrastructure.