A coming study represents progress in making the Red River navigable through Southwest Arkansas, but it could be a long time before that goal is realized, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman told a Texarkana audience last week.
Document: Red River StudyView
A recent cost-benefit analysis of the proposed project was favorable, so the Army Corps of Engineers is planning to proceed with a feasibility study. But any actual work on the river could yet be years away, Westerman, R-Hot Springs, told the Texarkana USA Chamber of Commerce during a luncheon Tuesday.
"It would probably require two additional locks and dams; that's part of what would come out of the feasibility study. And it would also address some of the flood control issues along the river should this project happen. Now still, if everything goes at breakneck speed for the federal government, it's still going to be a long time before you're seeing barges moving up and down the Red River," he said.
A feasibility study would provide enough information to determine whether or not the project should ultimately be advanced for construction. A 2005 feasibility study on the extension of navigation on the Red River identified a benefit-to-cost ratio that was unfavorable to pursuing construction.
Westerman said a subcommittee he serves on would play a key role in approving and planning the project.
"If this feasibility study comes back and says yes, these locks and dams should be added to the river, the next step is it would come to Congress, and actually the committee that I'm a ranking member on, the Water and Environment Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
"They would present their findings to us, and we would try to get legislation passed that would authorize the construction of a navigable waterway from here down to Shreveport. After it gets authorized, the Appropriations Committee would hopefully appropriate funds to do that project," Westerman said.
Westerman also raised the issue of floodwater runoff from Wright Patman Lake washing excessive sediment from the Sulphur River into the Red.
"The Corps have also agreed to do a study with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, to do an environmental analysis on the Sulphur River. Probably would take a year, year-and-a-half, to get that study done, and they would have recommendations on how to mitigate any environmental damage that's been done along the Sulphur River. If it's below a certain dollar amount, then a project can be taken on under current authorizations to fix that. If the project costs more, then they, again, would have to come to Congress, get a new authorization, or request for a new start, and do a project along the Sulphur River," Westerman said.
"So as far as waterways and navigable waterways go, there's actually some exciting things happening in this area, that I'm happy to see those things happening. Sometimes we work on stuff for a long time in Congress, and it seems like nothing's ever taking place. And to get these two things happening really within a couple of months of each other for the announcements—or almost simultaneously for the announcements—is a good win for our area here," he said.