Safe and efficient navigation on the Mississippi River is critical to the economy of the region and the nation. Today, navigation in the Delta faces challenges. Sedimentation of the river channel necessitates dredging the Lower Mississippi in order to ensure clear navigation depth, and dredging needs and costs are increasing. The future of the system, particularly near the Head of Passes, is uncertain in the face of sea level rise.
Yet, navigation also sees great future potential opportunities. The country stands at a watershed moment in terms of economic expansion related to the energy boom and increases in agricultural, natural resource, and manufactured exports. Much of the future economic growth is expected to be within the Delta itself, but it will also extend all the way up the Mississippi River to Chicago. Today, there is a need to plan for the long-term life of the river to allow for the increased capacity necessary to accommodate the growing role of marine commerce to the state and the nation.
Our team’s proposed idea benefits from the advice of our Navigation Expert Advisory Panel (NEAP), which consisted of senior leaders of key local ports, both pilots associations, and the Marine Navigational Safety Association. Placing new river mouths upstream of English Turn, would divert the main thrust of the river—with its strong current and sediment load—from its current course; this does not mean the river downstream of English Turn would disappear, however. Instead, a tidal channel with milder current would continue to exist south of English Turn, aiding navigation and industry along this stretch of the river. This approach unlocks huge benefits for navigation: With river sediment flowing to build new land, the tidal channel south of English Turn would not experience sedimentation. Therefore, deepening to 50 ft. (or more) is achievable with minimal future maintenance dredging costs. As conveyed by the NEAP, this deeper channel is critical for the continued growth of navigation.
Long Term Option for Navigation
BENEFITS TO NAVIGATION & SHIPPING
Shifting the thrust of the river current upstream of English Turn substantially reduces or eliminates dredging in the lower Mississippi
No structures in the Mississippi River that would inhibit/restrict current and future navigational operations
In near-term, Mississippi River remains navigation channel
Allows for deepening of the Mississippi River (at least 50’ deep)
Increased safety (little or no flow speed)
Extends the service life of the Southwest Pass
Offers possibility of shorter channel to Gulf in future
Possibility of multimodal logistics hub (including Integrated Intermodal rail)