River Flow Adjusted To Recover Oklahoma Sunken Barge

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Tulsa has requested to raise the water level at Webbers Falls to 491.5 feet (149.81 meters) for 24 hours to help free two sunken barges.

The request made Wednesday with Southwestern Division Headquarters continues the efforts to recover two sunken barges at Webbers Falls. The pool reached 491 feet (149.66 meters) Tuesday morning.

Flooding caused two barges to break from constraints and crash into a lock and dam in May, preventing three gates from closing. Water flow at the gates is now estimated at 55,000 cubic feet (1557.6 cubic meters) per second.

"Water is pouring over the top of those barges through the dam, and they just can't get the barges to budge," said David Yarbrough, port director at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, adding that two of the gates are wide open.

"What's hindering the contractor's progress is they are trying to remove those barges right there where it is basically open river."

Shipping on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System will remain halted, Tulsa Worldreported. It's unclear how long the recovery will take.

"This puts us out of business basically above Webbers Falls," Yarbrough said of commercial shipping. "Van Buren (Arkansas) would be about as far as traffic could move on the system.

About 6 million tons (5.44 million metric tons) of product are shipped in and out of the state by water annually, Yarbrough said. The Tulsa Port of Catoosa, a 2,000-acre industrial park, has a $300 million annual economic impact on Oklahoma.

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