KGOU

Widespread Flooding Continues To Impact Oklahoma Businesses And Industries

Jun 5, 2019

Recent flooding and dam releases are affecting businesses and key industries in Oklahoma. Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses how the flooding has effectively shut down the Port of Catoosa, impacted the state's agriculture industry and postponed the reopening of the River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa.

Full Transcript:

Katelyn Howard: This is the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I'm Katelyn Howard, and joining me is editor of The Journal Record Russell Ray. Over the past few weeks, parts of Oklahoma and surrounding states have experienced widespread flooding and dam releases. This has put stress on aging levees and put some people and their properties in danger. The National Weather Service forecast that more rain is likely. Your reporters have written several stories about how this flooding has impacted businesses in key industries in the state like agriculture. In one article, Brian Brus writes that flooding in and around Tulsa has effectively shut down commercial navigation at the Port of Catoosa for several weeks. Can you tell us more about the significant role the Port of Catoosa plays in commerce?

Russell Ray: Yes. The Port of Catoosa is actually one of the largest, most inland river ports in the nation. Thanks to the port, all types of products and commodities can be easily shipped from middle America to the rest of the world. The navigation system is tied to international ports on the Gulf Coast where those products and commodities can be shipped to markets worldwide. It's also where the port receives much of its freight, containing a range of merchandising and commodities. Right now, this pipeline of products is shut down because of the high waters, which have essentially made it impossible for barges to reach the Port of Catoosa.

Howard: And depending on the season, Brian writes the port has a daily economic impact of at least $2 million.

Ray: That's right. That's a really big impact. A single barge can essentially hold 15 railroad cars or up to 60 big semi-trailers. That's a lot of merchandise. The last time the port's navigation route was shut down was in 2015 when it was closed for 51 days during summer.

Howard: Even after the water levels return to normal, there are other problems, including repairs, that might further slowdown economic recovery.

Ray: That's right. It will take some time to get back to normal. A lot of suppliers have found alternative ways to ship their products to market. Suppliers nowadays work in real time. They no longer store large amounts of inventory in a single place. Their products are delivered on real-time demand nowadays. And so the hope is that suppliers will want to return to using the low shipping costs charged by the port.

Howard: Now earlier I mentioned that flooding has also impacted the state's agriculture industry. I'm sure you've seen the photos of cattle huddled together on high ground with floodwaters surrounding them. To combat this, Brian writes that the industry and government are helping producers affected by flooding. What exactly is being done to assist ag producers?

Ray: Well, cattle represent a $2.5 billion industry in the state. Pork production comes in at a distant second place at $823 million. Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture has already started processing applications related to the flooding. The USDA's Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Risk Management Agency are offering programs to help producers recover their losses.

Howard: In another article, Molly Fleming details how the River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa is postponing its reopening after flooding. In pictures, you can clearly see that the water from the Arkansas River has overtaken the resort's lower level.

Ray: That's right. The resort closed May 22. Right now, officials tell us the property will remain closed until further notice. River Spirit is the Muskogee Creek Nation's largest casino property, and it's also the tribe's highest source of revenue. The resort was closed during the Memorial Day weekend, and that means the tribe will likely face a financial hit on top of the costs to reopen the resort.

Howard: Russell Ray is editor of The Journal Record. Thanks for your time today, Russell.

Ray: My pleasure, Katelyn. Thank you.

Howard: KGOU and The Journal Record collaborate each week on the Business Intelligence Report. You can follow us both on social media. We're on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @journalrecord and @kgounews. You'll find links to the stories we discussed during this episode at JournalRecord.com. And this conversation, along with previous episodes of the Business Intelligence Report are available on our website, kgou.org. While you're there,  you can check out other features and podcasts produced by KGOU and our StateImpact Reporting team. For KGOU and the Business Intelligence Report, I'm Katelyn Howard.

The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.

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