This week, the Arkansas Legislative Council Highway Commission Review and Advisory Subcommittee reviewed a presentation regarding Arkansas’ inland waterways.

This year marks 50 years of service from the McClellan‐Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. The system serves a 12 state region and provides a cost-effective form of transportation to Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and surrounding states.

The anniversary reminds us of the importance of our waterways and our duty to ensure this infrastructure is well maintained.

Arkansas’s inland waterways system is vital to our economic growth. The inland waterways efficiently, sustainably, and cost-effectively transport critical commodities like agricultural goods, energy products, building materials, and industrial chemicals.

Arkansas has over 1,860 miles of navigable inland waterways, ranking it third in the nation.

Arkansas’ inland waterway assets include the Mississippi, Arkansas, Ouachita, Red, and White Rivers. The waterways account for $4.4 billion in gross state product and contribute more than $270 million in state and local tax revenue. The Mississippi River is the main trade corridor for goods produced in the northern part of the U.S. traveling to gateway ports near the Gulf of Mexico. As trade between the U.S. and Latin America grows, the importance of Arkansas waterways and the strategic location of the state will enhance manufacturing and distribution opportunities.

There are 11 public ports in the state. Arkansas’ ports, inland waterways, and inland waterways-dependent industries support more than 50,000 jobs.

The waterways can often be the most economical choice for transportation. One standard 15-barge tow moves the equivalent of 216 rail cars or 1,050 trucks. Waterborne transportation requires significantly less fuel than rail or trucks.

The Arkansas Waterways Commission is the sole state agency responsible for developing, promoting, and protecting waterborne transportation in Arkansas.

You can find more information about our waterways system on their website at www.waterways.arkansas.gov.

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