Officials from the state of Louisiana have signed an agreement with the US Army Corps of Engineers to begin construction on the deepening of the Lower Mississippi River from 45 ft to 50 ft.
This project will provide deep draught access to the ports at Baton Rouge, New Orleans, South Louisiana, St. Bernard and Plaquemines.
Governor of Louisiana John Bel Edwards stated: “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.”
Phase 1 of the project will provide a 50 ft channel from the Gulf of Mexico through Southwest Pass to Belmont Crossing and open up approximately 175 miles of the ship channel to the deeper draught, encompassing the entire jurisdiction of the Port of New Orleans (NOLA).
The overall project will provide a draught of 50 ft from the Port of Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico over 256 miles of the Mississippi River.
Brandy D. Christian, President and CEO of the Port of New Orleans, said: “One-in-five jobs in Louisiana is tied to our ports and this project will help to make our world-renowned port system even more competitive, while creating opportunities for manufacturers, shippers, growers and producers who rely on the Mississippi River.”
Funding for the approximately US$250m project has been allocated through a variety of sources. As the non-federal sponsor, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD) has committed US$81m.
Major General Diana Holland, US Army Corps of Engineers – Mississippi valley division commander, said: “More capacity means greater efficiency in transportation and less costs for our nation’s producers. From a benefit cost perspective, that equates to a benefit US$7.20 for every dollar spent on operation and maintenance, a significant return on investment.”