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story.lead_photo.caption Area business leaders learn about the dam and lock system on the Red River on Sept. 25, 2012, at the No. 5 lock in Shreveport, La. Red River Navigation and Texarkana Chamber of Commerce organized the daylong tour. Photo by Evan Lewis / Texarkana Gazette.

Navigation expansion of the Red River to Index Bridge on U.S. Highway 71 North is again being considered to allow barges to travel to the Texarkana area—and eventually to the Dallas-Fort Worth market.

The history and future of the Red River were discussed by Richard Brontoli, executive director of the Red River Valley Association, during the association's 22nd annual Texarkana conference at Texarkana Convention Center.

He displayed an image of the DFW Navigational History message, which said: "Dallas/Ft. Worth has lusted after river navigation since the late 1890s, when the last steam ship made it up the Trinity River from the Gulf of Mexico to Dallas. Now, the Trinity River is dammed at Lake Livingston, making it difficult for the possibility of making the Trinity River navigable to the DFW area," said Brontoli, referring to the "DFW Navigational History."

"Is the Red River a possible solution?" he said.

Brontoli suggested a study from Index to Denison Dam on Lake Texoma near Denison, Texas, and then south to DFW to determine if the Red River is a solution.

RRVA was founded in 1925 as a nonprofit, member-supported organization. Its purpose is to advance the economic development and well-being of the millions of citizens who reside in the area traversed by the Red River in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

"Since its inception, the RRVA has been instrumental in working on the local, state and federal levels to support and advance a number of programs to develop the land and water resources of the Red River Valley for the beneficial use of all its residents," Brontoli's presentation stated.

"I'm cautiously optimistic the engineering will be feasible from Texarkana to Denison Dam," he said.

In terms of fuel cost, barge transportation is more efficient than rail or trucks. One four-barge tow can transport 6,000 tons at once, and with less fuel. Railways would have to sustain a convoy of 60 rail cars that's three-quarters of a mile long, and highways would be backed up with 6-mile convoys of 150 trucks just to carry the same load, Brontoli said.

A truck can carry 1 ton of materials 59 miles on one gallon of fuel, and 200 miles by train. A barge can carry the same ton more than 500 miles on a gallon of fuel.

As the Red River was being expanded for traffic in Shreveport, barges began using the river more frequently.

The Red River's potential includes:

  •  Navigation
  •  Hydro-power
  •  Water supply
  •  Reduced effects of drought
  •  Recreation
  •  Protect the environment, wildlife species and wetlands.

These programs include:


Flood Control

In May 1990, the Red River in Southwest Arkansas and throughout much of its length in Louisiana experienced its highest flood stages since the devastating Red River floods of 1945 and 1957. Although a significant event, the May 1990 flooding was not as catastrophic as it would have been without the system of levees and flood-control structures that had been undertaken in the decades since the RRVA began its efforts to tame the Red River. Although 700,000 acres were flooded, with total damage costs estimated at $20.4 million, flood-control works including levees and upstream reservoirs prevented the flooding of some 1.3 million additional acres, thus averting an estimated $330 million in additional flood damage to agricultural and urban developments.



Construction of the Red River Navigation Project was authorized by Congress through the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1968. The project calls for a 200-foot-wide by 9-foot-deep navigation channel to be built from the Mississippi River to Shreveport and Bossier City, La. A series of five locks and dams have been completed on this stretch in Louisiana: Lindy C. Boggs, L&D 1 in Markeville; John H. Overton, L&D 2 in Alexandria; L&D 3 in Colfax; L&D 4 in Coushatta; and Joe D. Waggonner Jr. L&D 5 in Shreveport. The Red River opened for commercial traffic on Jan. 1, 1995. Completion of the Red River Waterway Project will significantly boost the river basin's economy and provide for area employment opportunities. Three public ports in Alexandria, Natchitoches and Shreveport are in various stages of operation. The RRVA supports studies to extend navigation past Shreveport and Bossier City.


Bank Stabilization

Each year, the Red River erodes hundreds of acres of productive farmland throughout the association's four-state region. Residential, commercial and industrial facilities and major infrastructure improvements such as highways, railroad and power lines near the Red River are threatened by bank caving. In the years since the RRVA began supporting bank stabilization programs, including the construction of revetments and channel realignments, the number of acres lost each year has been dramatically reduced. This program continues to be a priority.



The RRVA is also concerned about the environment. All water-resource projects must consider the environmental effects. "Projects we support will adhere to appropriate regulations and laws as outlined by the National Environmental Policy Act," he said.


Electricity Generation

Denison Dam began generating electricity for the surrounding area in 1945 when the first of its two 35 megawatt hydroelectric turbines was put into operation. Through 1989, the Army Corps of Engineers received revenues of more than $60 million from the sale of power generated at the dam. The RRVA also supports, where feasible, the generation of hydroelectric power on locks and dams elsewhere on the Red River and the construction of salt gradient solar ponds and associated power-generation equipment in conjunction with chloride control projects in western Texas and Oklahoma.


Recreational Facilities

Innumerable lakes, ranging from small oxbow lakes to massive structures, such as Lake Texoma in Texas and Oklahoma, are the direct result of the flood control, bank stabilization and navigation projects supported by the RRVA. Each year, millions of residents and visitors enjoy recreational activities such as boating, fishing, picnicking, hiking and hunting because of the availability of facilities on the Red River.

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