The start of the deepening project in the Lower Mississippi River is big news for river commerce. It will bring the working depths of the LMR up to par with depths in the recently deepened and expanded Panama Canal and Suez Canal. By allowing bigger vessels, including those able to transit the expanded Panama Canal, to travel upriver as far as Baton Rouge with heavier loads, the project will accommodate more commerce in the region while saving money and increasing environmental efficiency.
The start to the deepening project was praised by leaders from throughout Louisiana’s and the nation’s maritime industry, as well as farmers and other groups whose products will become more competitive in world markets as a result of the improvements. The deepening project was officially launched September 11, less than six weeks after the Corps of Engineers and the state of Louisiana signed the project partnership agreement. Phase 1 will achieve a 50-foot channel from the Gulf through the Port of New Orleans. Dredged materials from this phase of the project will be used to restore part of the bird’s-foot delta.
“This project represents an incredible partnership between the federal government, Congress, industry and the state of Louisiana,” said Col. Stephen Murphy, commander of the New Orleans Engineer District. “By deepening the Mississippi River Ship Channel even by just five feet to 50 feet, the project [will provide benefits to the national economy] to the tune of approximately $127 million annually. With a benefit-to-cost ratio of 7.2 to 1, the project will pay for itself in two years. This is a really great deal for Louisiana and America.”
The key part played by Big River Coalition in reigniting positive action on an idea that had been talked about for decades is not only a personal triumph for its leader, Sean Duffy, but a model of the kind of interagency, interstate and interregional cooperation that can make large infrastructure projects happen.
Both Duffy and Mike Steenhoek, CEO of the Soy Transportation Coalition and a key booster and supporter of the deepening project, will be participating in panel discussions at the upcoming Virtual Inland Marine Expo September 29-October 1.