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Posted 6/29/2016

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By Preston L. Chasteen


The Tulsa District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers navigation system maintenance vessel, Mr. Pat, celebrates 20 years of service to the Nation on June 28.

The four deck, 82 foot long maintenance vessel, facilitates the movement of a 150 foot barge, housing a 200 ton crane used for major repairs of the five locks & dams that make up the Oklahoma portion of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.

In addition to routine maintenance of the lock & dam facilities, Mr. Pat and crew also conduct repairs on spillway and overflow sections as well as remove large debris that can have negative effects on navigation and hydropower.

“Mr. Pat is the key piece to the maintenance puzzle.  With the recent upgrades to the vessel, we have the ability to handle any routine or emergency maintenance that may need to be accomplished on the locks and dams on our system,” said Greg Barnes, Tulsa District Navigation Maintenance Supervisor.

Late March saw the return of Mr. Pat to the District after some major refurbishment work at Ensley Engineer Yard in Memphis. These upgrades were a welcome addition to Capt. Kelly Youngblood who has been the boat captain since it was christened and put into service on June 28, 1996.

“I went to Orange, Texas, and got the boat,” said Youngblood. We took three days to drive it to Vicksburg, then on into Pine Bluff where our mechanics and crew looked it over and took final possession before bringing it on into the Tulsa District.”

Although the primary function of Mr. Pat and crew is to provide maintenance on the five locks and dams of the MKARNS, they have also been dispatched to work other projects like the Interstate 40 bridge collapse in 2002, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

However, its primary function will always be maintenance on the Tulsa District’s portion of the economically important navigation system.

“With the increase in tonnage that we’ve experienced over the years, it’s important that we keep our customers at the Port of Catoosa, Port of Muskogee and all the ports along the MKARNS in business,” said Barnes.  “We know they count on us and with the capabilities we have with Mr. Pat, we can keep things running and not let our customers down.” 

The vessel is designed and suited for year round operations on the MKARNS. Youngblood and a crew of four can sleep on the boat which provides the crew access to three bathrooms, two showers and a full kitchen.

“The only thing that stops us from working is a lot of wind and a lot of current,” said Youngblood.

Mr. Pat was named after long time Corps of Engineers employee, Mr. Robert D. Patterson, who served 43 years with the Corps. 

Mr. Patterson, or “Mr. Pat” as he was known, had previously worked in military construction and later on flood control projects.  He finished his career as assistant resident engineer on the construction projects for the W.D. Mayo and Robert S. Kerr Locks and Dams.