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Project to Deepen Mississippi River Improves Access for Large Ships

deepening the Mississippi River to improve shipping access
Mississippi River - Wikimedia Commons

By The Maritime Executive 08-07-2020 09:14:16

An agreement has been reached to begin work on deepening the Mississippi River stretching from the mouth of the river at the Gulf of Mexico north to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The project will deepen the lower portion of the Mississippi River from 45 feet to 50 feet, and provide critical deep-draft access to the ports at Plaquemines, New Orleans, South Louisiana, and Baton Rouge. 

“This is a great day for the people of Louisiana who depend on the Mississippi River for their livelihood,” said John Bel Edwards, Governor of the state of Louisiana. “When completed, this project will allow larger vessels that can currently use the widened Panama Canal to reach Louisiana ports as far north as Baton Rouge. It will also allow for some vessels to carry heavier loads. Nationwide, industries that depend on this Mississippi River to move goods will benefit greatly from this dredging project.”

Construction on the deepening project is expected to begin early in 2021 and will be carried out in three phases moving north on the river. In total, it will encompass more than 250 miles along one of the busiest commerce routes in America. According to Major General Diana Holland, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Mississippi Valley Division Commander, who will oversee the project, more capacity of the river will create greater efficiency in transportation. 

The first phase of the project is expected to take about a year to complete and material dredged from the river will be used to reclaim lost marsh areas. The second phase of the project which will reach to Baton Rouge is scheduled to be completed by 2024.

Once completed, the deepening project will provide and expand global markets for Louisiana farmers, manufacturers, and neighbors who rely on goods for jobs and their quality of life. The river and its tributaries account for over $750 billion of the nation’s economy and more than 2.4 million jobs. In Louisiana, one in every five jobs is port-related with the ports comprising almost 23 percent of the dollar amount for the state’s goods and services. 

During the signing ceremony for the new agreement, they also estimated that each foot of additional depth added to the river would allow approximately $1 million in additional cargo to move along the Mississippi. They said that it would also enable a broader range of businesses to switch from the more costly land routes to using the Mississippi River and its inland tributaries, which also should contribute to lower exhaust emissions and improve the environment. 

“This is an important step forward for the shipping industry and commerce in our country,” said Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) Commissioner of Multimodal Commerce Renee Lapeyrolerie. “State, local and federal officials along with other interested parties worked for a common goal that will culminate in benefits across the nation.” 

Funding for the approximately $250 million project has been allocated through a variety of sources. As the non-federal sponsor, DOTD has committed $81 million.