CAMDEN Here we go again.
Do we maintain the Ouachita River or let it dry up as a navigable natural resource?
As long was we can remember, because the Ouachita isn’t as popular a commercial waterway as the Arkansas or Mississippi, we have had regular battles to convince the powers-that-be in Washington, D.C., that our river deserves to be properly maintained.
Such maintenance calls for the river to be dredged to provide a 9-foot deep by 100-foot wide navigation channel, which is necessary for commercial shipping.
Once again, we have a battle on our hands for federal dollars to do the maintenance. As reported in a recent Camden News article, the Ouachita River is in a “Catch 22” scenario. To get needed dredging funds, the river needs to show an increase in commercial traffic. For traffic to increase, there must be dredging to provide a navigation channel for commercial traffic.
“I started the morning off in El Dorado looking at Thatcher Lock and Dam,” 4th District Representative Bruce Westerman, a ranking member on the U.S. House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, said recently. “We’re in a bit of a conundrum with the Ouachita River. The channel hasn’t been dredged in a long time because there isn’t any traffic on the river, and it’s kind of like the chicken and the egg, you’re not going to get any traffic on the river until you get the channel open. Hopefully we can talk about issues surrounding that and what we can do to work together on the local level, the state level and federal level to draw industry here that can utilize the great resource we have in the Ouachita River.”
While pointing out to Congress that adequate maintenance of the river also enhances its recreational aspects, we urge him to persuade his colleagues not to abandon this, to use his own words, “great resource we have in the Ouachita River.”
We also urge people in and out of government in South Arkansas to lobby Congress to approve these vital funds.
It is evident that battling for river maintenance is a never-ending endeavor that would obviously become less difficult with increased commercial river usage. We appreciate the efforts of the Ouachita River Valley Association on behalf of the river, but (in agreement with Westerman’s comment about working to increase industrial use of the Ouachita) suggest consideration be given to somehow mounting a regular full-court press to recruit businesses to utilize the economic advantages of water transportation of products and manufacturing materials.