PORT OF MUSKOGEE | 4901 HAROLD SCOGGINS DRIVE | MUSKOGEE, OK | 918.682.7886 • Fax: 918.683.4811 | scott@muskogeeport.com
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OUTLOOK 2016: Port plans for active year


Muskogee Phoenix
February 24, 2016
D. E. Smoot | Phoenix Staff Writer

Port of Muskogee activity weathered historic rainfall and a prolonged downturn of the oil and gas industry in 2015 and optimism remains alive and well for the coming year.

"Financially we are doing great, but still there are a lot of risks out there," Port Director Scott Robinson said, acknowledging the 78 percent drop in crude oil prices that has occurred during the year and a half. "What we are doing is continuing to focus on expanding the footprint of industrial properties controlled by the port authority, keeping our property inventory up to date, and making it more shovel-ready."

That effort, Robinson said, includes having engineering plans in place for all industrial properties being marketed for development, which has been done for several tracts. The requisite environmental studies also have been done and, in some cases, mitigation plans have been completed for properties where wetlands are an issue. 

Infrastructure development, Robinson said, is being undertaken on a case-by-case basis as needed, but engineering has been completed for planned railroad improvements. A major rail project that is in the works includes track geometry needed to accommodate six-axle locomotives, which are becoming the industry standard, and an expansion of the port's marshaling yard.

"It is one of our main focuses -- we have got to improve rail access into the port -- that is an extremely important part of our growth strategy," Robinson said. "Improving rail access means we are changing the geometry to the existing curvature to accommodate six-axle locomotives and safe access for flat-bed cars."

Securing funds for that project, Robinson said, will be the next step, one that was initiated in 2015 and expected to continue this year with the renewed application for a highly competitive federal transportation grant. While the U.S. Department of Transportation rejected the 2015 application, Robinson said federal officials encouraged the port authority to submit a second application.

"We were considered a highly rated applicant and encouraged to resubmit for the next round of TIGER grants included in the new highway bill," Robinson said, noting the 2015 grant cycle drew applicants with $10 billion of projects who were competing for the $500 million available through the federal transportation grant program. "That happens a lot, but I think ultimately we will be successful -- it might take two or three rounds."

Robinson said the port authority is continuing efforts to acquire a 150-acre tract at Davis Field, which is owned by the city of Muskogee, despite some snags in the process. That acquisition, he said, is necessary to promote the port authority's efforts to land some aerospace projects.

"We have been targeting potential aerospace development and other projects that need airport access," Robinson said. "None of those have materialized, but there are at least one or two still in hopper we will continue to work."

With regard to traditional port activities, Robinson said barge traffic in and out of the Muskogee facility was flat -- just about a half percent below 2014 levels -- last year. But that, he said, is about 15 percent to 20 percent better than other ports along the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.

"We have been very fortunate this year: Tonnage on the river as a whole was down 15 percent this year, and on the Oklahoma segment it was down 20 percent," Robinson said during a recent tour of the port, where sandbags remained stacked in doorways of buildings that line the inland navigation channel. "All of that was pretty much due to oil and gas -- some of it was the flooding -- but our tonnage remained pretty even compared to the year before."

Robinson attributed that good fortune to the raw material and products used by local industry less reliant on the energy sector. He said Dal-Tile and Owen-Illinois continue to import a lot of material, and the Port of Muskogee remains a hub for rebar, steel coils and wire that arrives by barge and leaves by truck or rail to other inland destinations.

"We get a lot of rebar -- we were kind of rebar center -- that comes from all over the world," Robinson said about the steel bars that economists use to help gauge the strength of the construction industry. "None of this comes from the United States, but we ship it all over the country from here."

The Port of Muskogee is located at Mile 393.8 along the MKARNS near the confluence of the Arkansas, Verdigris and Grand rivers. The inland navigation system is an all-weather channel that links Oklahoma with inland ports along the Ohio, Illinois and Mississippi rivers, and all international seaports through its access to the Gulf of Mexico.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

ADDRESS: 4901 Harold Scoggins Drive, Muskogee.
HOURS: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
SERVICES OFFERED: Oversight of port operations and industrial development.
KEY PERSONNEL: Port Director Scott Robinson; Dave Davis, special projects coordinator; Eric Miller, director of business and economic development.
TELEPHONE: (918) 682-7886.

WEBSITE: www.muskogeeport.com
EMAIL: scott@muskogeeport.com; dave@muskogeeport.com; eric@muskogeeport.com.

Source: http://www.muskogeephoenix.com/news/local_news/outlook-port-plans-for-active-year/article_1669ed9d-c27b-5a67-9897-f854bca39555.html

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The Port of Muskogee is located at River Navigation Mile 393.8 R in Muskogee, Oklahoma.