Louisiana OKs deepening Mississippi River to 50 feet

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Mississippi River in Louisiana is getting deeper.

The state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Friday agreed to start deepening the shipping channel from the Gulf of Mexico to Baton Rouge from a depth of 45 feet (13.7 meters) to 50 feet (15.2 meters). The move will also provide deep draft access to the ports at Plaquemines, New Orleans, South Louisiana and Baton Rouge, officials said.

One foot of additional depth will allow about $1 million in additional cargo, enabling vendors to use the Mississippi River, once the dredging is completed, and its inland tributaries versus the more expensive land bridges, state officials said.

“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,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a news release.. “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.”

Once completed, the deepening project will provide and expand global markets for Louisiana farmers, manufacturers and neighbors who rely on goods for jobs and their quality of life, the governor said.

“More capacity means greater efficiency in transportation and less costs for our Nation’s producers,” said Army Corps of Engineers Maj. Gen. Diana Holland, commander of the Mississippi Valley Division. “From a benefit cost perspective, that equates to a benefit (of) $7.20 for every dollar spent on operation and maintenance, a significant return on investment.”

Funding for the approximately $250 million project has been allocated through a variety of sources, the governor said. As the non-federal sponsor, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has committed $81 million, he said.

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