The Army Corps of Engineers 2020 Work Plan included funding for infrastructure projects in Louisiana, including $85 million to deepen the Mississippi River to 50'.

The launch of the project followed the July 31, 2020, signing of an agreement between the Corps and the state of Louisiana. The final 256 miles of the Lower Mississippi between the Gulf of Mexico and Baton Rouge, La., is in the process of being deepened to 50'. In fact, dredging the ship channel to 50' from the Gulf of Mexico to the Port of South Louisiana in Reserve, La. (between New Orleans and Baton Rouge) is finished.

Between Baton Rouge and the Gulf of Mexico is a stretch of river where more than 50% of U.S. corn and soybeans are shipped to U.S. export markets, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The project provides deep draft access to Louisiana ports at Baton Rouge, New Orleans, South Louisiana, St. Bernard and Plaquemines.

Erosion of the marsh land south of New Orleans has been a topic of much hand wringing for years now. In addition to enhancing commerce along the ship channel, the dredging project has helped the state reclaim some of that land that has eroded over the years for a variety of reasons.

“Beneficial use has created over 26,000 acres of habitat on the Lower Mississippi River,” Col. Stephen Murphy, the Corps of Engineers New Orleans District commander and chief engineer, said during a panel entitled, “What it takes to Deepen the Mississippi River” at December’s International WorkBoat Show in New Orleans.

Col. Murphy did mention that there is a hang up around mile marker 12 near Venice, La., that remains under investigation. Officials are not sure if there are pipelines there or some other obstructions that might cause an explosion or a grounding.

Ed Landgraf, founder and chairman of the Coastal and Marine Operators (CAMO) pipeline industry group who spoke on the same panel, said that marine pipeline safety is not equally understood and that damage from a third party is the source of some of the pipeline industry’s largest spills.

CAMO is very active in educating Mississippi River ship channel users concerning pipeline safety. He can be reached at [email protected]

The third member of the panel, Landry Kirk, director of marine services for the New Orleans Board of Trade, spelled out what the deepening of the river means to commerce, especially when it comes to grain cargoes.

Based on increased tonnage because of the increased water depth, the value of a ship’s cargo of yellow corn could increase anywhere from $1.65 million to $1.73 million per shipment. Wheat cargoes could rise as much as $2.3 million to $2.4 million per shipment, and yellow soybeans, $3.2 million to $3.3 million per shipment.

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.