Red River Stakeholders To Consider Deepening, Extending Navigation To DFW

Stakeholders of the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway—the navigable portion of the Red River that extends from the Mississippi River to Shreveport, La.—and those farther upriver in Arkansas and along the border between Oklahoma and Texas have a trio of studies to watch related to navigation. If all three studies produce positive outcomes, then stakeholders could eventually see commercial navigation on the Red River extend all the way up to near Denison, Texas, and Lake Texoma, just north of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.

“It’s really exciting because there are so many big things happening all at once,” said Emily Mott, executive director of the Red River Valley Association.

The first study will consider the feasibility of deepening the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway from its current depth of 9 feet to 12 feet. The Vicksburg Engineer District will lead the study, with the Red River Waterway Commission and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) serving as the local sponsor and cost-share partner, respectively. Congress recently appropriated the first $500,000 for the study, with a match coming from the state.

“It’s going to take three years to go through the process to see what adjustments will have to be made and how much it would cost,” Mott said.

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From an infrastructure standpoint, the Corps will look at how much dredging will be needed and how much it will cost to modify the five locks on the waterway. Corps officials will also assess the economic benefits of an extra 3 feet of draft for barges on the waterway.

Chris Collins, director of waterways for Louisiana DOTD’s office of multimodal commerce, said the state and Corps are currently finalizing the project partnership agreement for the study, with plans to execute the agreement sometime this spring.

The initial infusion of federal money came via congressionally directed funding—a.k.a. an earmark—from Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

Index, Ark.

The second study is a Section 203 study to gauge the feasibility of extending commercial navigation on the Red River from its current terminus near Shreveport to Index, Ark., located at Mile 142. A Section 203 study allows non-federal stakeholders to conduct feasibility studies for water resources development projects. Once complete, the study will be submitted to the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works. The secretary then will have 180 days to make a recommendation to Congress on whether to move forward in light of the study.

Freese & Nichols is directing the Section 203 study, which is being funded by parties in both Arkansas and Louisiana.

“They’re anticipating three additional locks would be needed to get a channel up to southwest Arkansas,” Mott said.

The city of Index is located north of Texarkana, near the Arkansas border with Texas.

Vicksburg District commander Col. Christopher Kline signed a memorandum of agreement for the southwest Arkansas navigation study during the Red River Valley Association’s annual meeting, held in Shreveport in February.

On To Denison Dam

The third study, a Planning Assistance to States (PAS) program as described in the Water Resources Development Act of 1974, would extend navigation on the Red River even farther upriver—all the way to near Denison Dam. Mott said that, with the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s population expected to double by the end of the 21st century, extending navigation to the north side of the region would be a huge win.

“There would be private and public ports all along the waterway, just like there are on the Red River today,” she said.