Threats To The Ouachita River Forge Partnership

Feb 21, 2017

A doomsday situation could be just around the corner for North Louisiana and South Arkansas.  The Ouachita River could be defunded by the Corp of Engineers because of a lack of barge traffic.

Terry Baugh of the Ouachita Port says, “We are one pen swipe from disaster.”

The Ouachita River at Monroe.
Credit Cory Crowe / KEDM

Baugh explained that the Ouachita is classified as a low use river.  That classification only has one determining factor, the amount of commercial river traffic.  He can envision a scenario where the river becomes an unnavigable ghost of its current self.  Baugh says the Louisiana Congressional delegation has kept that from happening.

Randy Denmon of The Ouachita River Valley Association says industries like paper mills could lose access to much needed water.  The price of gas could increase and 160 communities might be looking for new sources of drinking water.  

A new partnership between The University of Louisiana Monroe and the Northeast  Louisiana Economic Partnership plans to tackle this issue.  NLEP presented ULM with a $30,000 check to fund an economic impact study. That study will be used to attempt to sway the Corps of Engineer s to change the low use designation.  

The $30,000 from NLEP will be used for an impact study that will be complete by the end of the year.
Credit Cory Crowe

The University of Louisiana Monroe’s  Dr. Robert Eisenstadt  says the Ouachita/Black River System runs from Camden Arkansas to Avoyelles Parish. ULM’s upcoming  economic impact statement will look past the Corps barge traffic measurement .  Commercial water usage from industry, waste water discharge rates, recreational and consumer usage will all be used to try to help the Corps of Engineers have a better picture of what the Ouachita River means to our region.

Before the river was dammed the Ouachita was a sandy shallow river that a person could cross on foot in numerous places.  In 1926 the Army Corps of Engineers began a project of placing locks and dams on the river. It was completed in 1972 and it has been in a constant state of upgrades and continued dredging.    

The partnership of NLEP, ULM, ORVAL and the Ouachita Port want to make a century of work and millions spent on the Ouachita Black System are not abandoned.