A planned dredging of the Mississippi River that would allow the new larger Panamaxes to reach Baton Rouge as long as their superstructure fits below the Crescent City Connection bridge in New Orleans has gained the approval of the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The plan is to deepen the main channel of the Mississippi River to 50ft from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico. James Dalton, the corp’s civil works director, concluded the that the increase would generate annual benefits of upward of $100m to the US economy, compared with average annual costs of $17.7m.
Dalton reportedly signed the recommendation on August 3rd with the news being made public on August 20th. The $200m-plus project would deepen the main shipping channel by 5ft where needed along about 250 miles of the river as it passes through the Plaquemines Port, Harbour and Terminal District; Port of New Orleans; Port of South Louisiana; and Port of Greater Baton Rouge. The ports handle more than 500m tons of cargo a year, including 60% of US grain.
A corps told The Times-Picayune that Louisiana’s share of the cost could be as much as $119.6m, including $39.4m of the actual deepening project construction costs. The other $80.2m attributed to the state would be the cost of relocating pipelines and other utilities that run through the river. Both the corps and state estimated that some of the relocation cost would be picked up by the utility owners.
The final proposal must be approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget and Congress. Congress must also include funding for the project in its fiscal year 2019 budget; as well as allocating funds for the increased cost of annual dredging in future annual budgets.