Shell Named To Arkansas Waterways Commission

Marty Shell, president of Five Rivers Distribution in Fort Smith and Van Buren—both in Arkansas—was appointed to the Arkansas Waterways Commission by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in March.

The Arkansas Waterways Commission is the sole state agency responsible for developing, promoting and protecting waterborne transportation in Arkansas. The commission also promotes economic development for ports on the five commercially navigable rivers of the state—the Arkansas, Mississippi, Ouachita, Red and White rivers.

Five Rivers Distribution, which serves as the operator of the ports of Fort Smith and Van Buren, was established as an intermodal warehouse facility, with a total of five handling docks for unloading barges and access to Union Pacific and A&M railroads.

As a second-generation port terminal operator, Shell has been employed by Five Rivers Distribution for more than 24 years, where he worked under his father, Buck Shell, the founder of Five Rivers Distribution. Buck Shell died in 2010.

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Active with various industry organizations, such as the Arkansas-Oklahoma Port Operators Association for which he currently serves as president, Shell said he was humbled to be named to the commission. “I’m honored,” he said. “Being appointed to a workhorse of a river system, I know that I have my work cut out for me and the commission.”

Shell said that the commission will be focusing a lot of its efforts on the Three Rivers Study, which encompasses the confluence of the Arkansas and White rivers with the Mississippi River in southeast Arkansas.

The study was conducted by the Little Rock Engineer District, which proposes to make changes in the lower McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) in an effort to seek a long-term sustainable navigation system that promotes the continued safe and reliable economic use of the system. The MKARNS reaches up to the Port of Catoosa in Oklahoma. According to the study, MKARNS is threatened with a breach between navigation miles 3 and 8 on the White River.

Another hot topic on the commission’s agenda is the backlog of infrastructure maintenance projects along the rivers. “I’m hopeful that the Trump administration’s infrastructure program will roll out and will be favorable for waterway navigation interests,” said Shell. “The Arkansas and White rivers are trying to come together on this.” Shell added that he and the commission hope the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 will help solve some of the infrastructure issues. “We have put bandaids on these issues for many, many years,” said Shell, referring to the various maintenance projects to keep the rivers’ aging infrastructure operating. “The money we’ve spent on bandaids could have been used on actual fixes years ago.”

In addition to working on key river navigation issues with the commission, Shell said he looks forward to working with Deidre Smith, who was named director of the organization last year.

Prior to being appointed to the commission, Shell was selected by Gov. Mike Beebe to the Arkansas River Basin Committee. He was also instrumental in obtaining grants in 2017 through the Fort Smith Port Authority to build a new 30,000-square-foot bulk storage warehouse at the Port of Fort Smith for Five Rivers Distribution. Construction on the warehouse is to be completed later this month.