THE NEXT STEPS
Army Corp of Engineers director authorizes reports crucial to dredging the Mississippi River
The United States Army Corps of Engineers’ Director of Civil Works, Mr. James C. Dalton signed evaluation documents in support of the Mississippi River dredging to 50 feet. The General Reevaluation Report (GRR) (economic update) and Supplement to the Final Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) were required to update the economics needed to justify the Ship Channel deepening.
The director’s official report stated: “I request that you concur with my finding that the recommended deepening of the Mississippi River Ship Channel (MRSC) is economically justified and environmentally sustainable, and approve budgeting for this project based on the Final GRR and SEIS.”
The National Economic Development Plan provides deep draft navigation to a depth of 50 feet from the Gulf of Mexico beginning at River Mile 22 Below Head of Passes through the Port of Baton Rouge ending at River Mile 232.4 Above Head of Passes. The plan provides benefits to the nation in terms of transportation cost savings by allowing more efficient use of vessels.
Material dredged from River Mile 13.4 Above Head of Passes to River Mile 19.5 Below Head of Passes will be used beneficially under the Federal Standard, and it is anticipated that construction dredging in this reach will result in the creation of 1,462 acres of marsh habitat.
The total first cost of the general navigation features, presently estimated to be $157.5 million with the estimated federal share of the National Economic Development Plan being $118.1 million (75 percent). For the total first cost of the general navigation features, the estimated non-federal share of the National Economic Development Plan would be $39.4 million (25 percent).
“Louisiana is our nation’s gateway to the world for commerce, so it is vitally important we continue to be globally competitive in shipping capacity. Deepening the Mississippi River Ship Channel is very important for Louisiana and is also strategically important to the nation as a whole,” said House Majority Whip, Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise. “I have consistently fought to move this project forward in Congress, and I will continue working with my colleagues to make sure it is funded as soon as possible.”
BIG RIVER COALITION
In 2011 the Big River Coalition identified the three steps required to deepen the Mississippi River Ship Channel to 50 feet to match the controlling depth of the new locks on the Panama Canal:
1. Increase the federal threshold for full channel maintenance from 45 feet to 50 feet. Completed in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014.
2. Complete the General Reevaluation Report to update the economic impact of the deepening the MRSC to 50 feet. Completed on August 3, 2018 in the Director’s Report.
3. Fund and dredge the MRSC to 50 feet.
The next phase will be to dredge from Mile 13.4 Above Head of Passes to Mile 19.5 Below Head of Passes.
Once completed this phase is expected to open the channel to 50 feet all the way to the Port of South Louisiana to the vicinity of Belmont Crossing (Mile 154 Above Head of Passes).
“I’ve been advocating dredging the mouth of the River for several years now. I’m glad the Corps of Engineers has signed the evaluation documents in support of the project. Dreding the mouth of the river to 50 feet is a win-win for the state of Louisiana,” said Port Executive Director Paul Aucoin. “It will create new marshland to help prevent coastal erosion and help keep the Port of South Louisiana reliable and competitive. This will ensure economic development and jobs for years to come.”
The Mississippi River Ship Channel connects more miles of navigable waterways than the rest of the world combined connecting the nation’s interior to international trade and maximizing waterborne commerce. The Mighty Mississippi is the only major navigable channel in the world connected to over 300 million acres of agricultural lands.
“The Mississippi River Ship Channel deepening project has been the number one infrastructure goal of the Big River Coalition since we revitalized the effort with the assistance of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development in 2011,” Big River Coalition Executive Directory, Sean Duffy said. “The channel deepening would generate commerce, stimulate coastal restoration and enhance the water carrying capacity of the gateway to the center of America: The Lower Mississippi River. The multiple benefits include substantive transportation cost savings to the American Farmers, job creation throughout the nation’s interior, and increased flood protection of businesses, farms and homes.”
The Mississippi River remains the nation’s most economically prolific natural resource. Annually over 60 percent of the nation’s grain cargoes are exported out of the Ship Channel. The average annual cost of the deepening project is estimated to be $17.7 million while the average annual benefits are projected to be $127.5 million, making the benefit-to-cost ratio of the Final Plan 7.2 to 1. The deepening of the Mississippi River Ship Channel is an infrastructure project of national and international significance that would not only promote the economic prosperity of Louisiana, but also that of the nation.