An agreement to deepen the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico through Baton Rouge has been authorized and signed.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn D. Wilson and officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today announced funding for the approximately $250 million project has been allocated through a variety of sources, with DOTD, as the non-federal sponsor, committing $81 million.
The project will deepen the lower portion of the Mississippi River from 45 feet to 50 feet, providing deep-draft access to the ports at Plaquemines, New Orleans, South Louisiana and Baton Rouge. Officials tout the move as a win for the shipping industry and a way to provide and expand global markets for Louisiana farmers and manufacturers who rely on the goods for jobs.
“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,” Edwards said in a prepared statement. “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.”
One foot of additional depth is expected to allow approximately $1 million in additional cargo, which, once complete, will enable vendors to use the river and its inland tributaries versus the more expensive land bridges. The river and its tributaries account for over $750 billion of the nation’s economy and more than 2.4 million jobs.
Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, said in a statement that he’s proud the state is partnering with the farmers leading the United Soybean Board, the Soy Transportation Coalition and others in promoting “this project of national significance,” noting the lower Mississippi River is the No. 1 export region for America’s soybean and corn farmers.
The ceremonial agreement signing took place Friday at the corps’ district headquarters in New Orleans.