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Red River Valley Association Plans Annual Convention

The Red River Valley Association (RRVA) will hold its 93rd annual convention February 21–22 at Horseshoe Riverdome in Bossier City, La. The convention will span a wide range of topics—from commercial and recreational navigation to levees and the National Flood Insurance Program—reflecting the diversity of stakeholders connected to the Red River Valley, which spans the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

The convention will open February 21 with a meeting of the U.S. Coast Guard Lower Mississippi River Mid-South Area Maritime Security Committee (Ouachita/Red River), followed by meetings of the Red River Valley Association’s navigation and nomination and resolution committees. Day 1 will close with an icebreaker and dinner.

RRVA President Dan York will call Day 2 of the convention to order at 8:30 a.m., February 22. Then attendees will hear a pair of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presentations—first from the Mississippi Valley Division and then from the Corps districts connected to the Red River Basin.

Rich Brontoli, executive director of the Red River Valley Association, said members should look forward to the division commander offering a “big picture” perspective, with the district representatives zooming in on issues and projects specific to the Red River Basin.

For the Red River Valley, the two major Corps districts are the Vicksburg District, which covers most of the levees and navigation issues on the Red River, and the Tulsa District, which manages many of the lakes and reservoirs at the upper end of the system. Representatives from the Little Rock and Fort Worth districts, which include some of the other lakes and reservoirs that are part of the Red River system, will also speak.

One potential topic to be covered in the Corps presentations will be the ongoing sedimentation study the agency is conducting on the Red River, which was prompted in large part by the historic flooding of 2015 and 2016. Brontoli said a meeting focused on the sedimentation study will be held later this month, so more information should be available by the annual convention.

The convention will feature a presentation by the Louisiana Natural Resources Conservation Service, with a focus on farm bill programs and agriculture-related issues connected with the Red River, as well as a presentation by the Big River Coalition, whose executive director, Sean Duffy, has been leading efforts to eventually deepen the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge, La., to the Gulf of Mexico to 50 feet. The convention will also include a presentation by a representative from the North Lafourche Levee District on the outlook for the National Flood Insurance Program, which was just reauthorized December 22, 2017. That authorization only provided a four-week extension, though, which runs through January 19.

Other agencies with representatives speaking at the convention will include the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Lower Mississippi, Caddo Lake Institute, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which is involved in ongoing mitigation efforts on the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway portion of the Red River. The convention agenda also includes a presentation from the Arkansas Waterways Commission, since many RRVA members also operate on the Ouachita and Arkansas rivers.

Lock Operations

The convention will also feature a presentation by the Corps of Engineers on the Inland Marine Transportation System, focused on lock operation and statistics. The J. Bennett Johnston Waterway, which covers the Red River from the Mississippi River up to Shreveport, La., includes five navigation locks and a 9-foot channel.

The Corps typically limits 24-hour lock operations to only high-use locks (defined as those with at least 1,000 commercial lockages per year). And while not all the locks on the Red qualify as high-use locks, other factors have resulted in 24-hour operation at the locks on the Red River Waterway.

“Every year we’ve shown an increase, so the commanders, who have flexibility, lock up 24/7,” Brontoli said. “Every January, we have to put in a justification of why it should remain 24/7, and the main justification is increased usage every year, showing an upward trend, and potential new customers we can point to.”

The convention will conclude with a RRVA member meeting and a gathering of the association’s board of directors, followed by a board member dinner.

Brontoli said overall the biggest goal for operators on the Red River is getting the channel deepened from 9 feet to 12 feet. Last spring, moving to a 12-foot channel was included in the Corps’ annual report.

“Now our big push is to get it in a [water resources development] bill to get it authorized,” Brontoli said.

Once the initiative is included in a Water Resources Development Act—and one is anticipated in 2018—the matter will be studied and, hopefully, funded, with the Corps’ Vicksburg District serving as the federal sponsor and the Red River Waterway Commission acting as the local sponsor.

Registration for the convention is available online at www.rrva.org (see the “93rd Annual Convention Registration & Hotel Info” link). The convention’s agenda and information about sponsorship opportunities are also available at the association’s website.

Convention registration, which includes meals, is $360 through February 16, after which the cost is $380. A group rate of $70 per night is available at Horseshoe Riverdome Hotel, located at 711 Horseshoe Boulevard in Bossier City. To get the block rate, hotel reservations should be made by February 6.

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