The ports at Baton Rouge, New Orleans, South Louisiana, St. Bernard and Plaquemines are slated to have deep draft access after Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and other state officials signed a formal agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Friday to begin construction on the deepening of the Lower Mississippi River to 50 feet from 45 feet.
The overall project will provide a draft of 50-feet from the Port of Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico over 256 miles of the Mississippi River. Phase 1 of the project will provide a 50-foot 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 draft, encompassing the entire jurisdiction of Port NOLA.
“This is a great day for the people of Louisiana who depend on the Mississippi River for their livelihood,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “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.”
Gov. Edwards joined Major General Diana Holland, Commanding General, Mississippi River Valley Division; and Col. Stephen Murphy, Commander, New Orleans District, in a signing ceremony at the New Orleans District Headquarters. The ceremony was broadcasted on Facebook Live via the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) – New Orleans District and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD), due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“This monumental agreement would not have been possible without the leadership of Gov. Edwards, the Louisiana Legislature and the entire Louisiana Congressional delegation, who have been steadfast in their support of this critical project. In addition, the importance of the work of the Big River Coalition, comprised of ports, government agencies and trade associations along the entirety of the River cannot be overstated,” said Brandy D. Christian, President and CEO of the Port of New Orleans. “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 $250 million project has been allocated through a variety of sources. As the non-federal sponsor, LADOTD has committed $81 million.
“The Mississippi River has always been a critical economic engine for the United States and connects our Nation’s heartland to the global economy,” said Major General Diana Holland, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Mississippi Valley Division Commander. “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 $7.20 for every dollar spent on operation and maintenance, a significant return on investment.”
Sean Duffy, Executive Director of the Big River Coalition, added, “The deepening of the ship channel to 50 feet is a historic project that will bring the nation’s most prolific artery of trade into the modern post Panamax era. The deepening will offer significant cost savings to shippers and promote economy of scale efficiencies that will help stimulate trade for decades. The Coalition applauds the USACE and LADOTD for their professional support and recognizes the unwavering commitment from the navigation industry across the Mississippi River Basin.”
“With the signing today, we have taken one step forward toward providing a better future for countless Louisianans,” said DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson, Ph.D. “If we work together with our natural resources and put a multimodal commerce plan in place, the Mississippi River can be an economic super highway and Louisiana can be a leader in global goods movement.”
“No single agency can undertake a project of this level, magnitude, and importance without great partners,” said Col. Stephen Murphy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – New Orleans District Commander. “The Corps is privileged to have such a partner in the Louisiana Department of Transportation.Together we look forward on delivering a project that will have immense benefits, not only for Louisiana, but across the nation.”
“This is an important step forward for the shipping industry and commerce in our country,” said 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.”