UPDATED: MISSISSIPPI RIVER SHIP CHANNEL SUPPLEMENTAL FUNDING REQUESTS FISCAL YEAR 2019

The information reproduced below and in the attachment was delivered to the entire Louisiana Delegation.

Members are encouraged to share this request with their delegation contacts and to Government Relations staff.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance, thank you for your support.

Best Regards,
Sean

Members of the Louisiana Delegation, 

The Mississippi River Ship Channel is in critical need of Supplemental Funding to respond to the ongoing flood emergency that has been artificially controlled by the long-term operation of the Bonnet Carré Spillway.  The Mississippi River Ship Channel remains severely deficient and shoaled in with a maximum allowable freshwater draft of 42 feet, presently three feet below the federally authorized dimensions of 45 feet deep by 750 feet wide.  The channel is also severely narrowed and there is a loss of depth across the entire channel width at key areas like Cubits Gap and the Head of Passes.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently announced the following update based on the latest river stage forecasts for the 2019 Flood Event, “this year’s event will be the longest in the 84 years of record keeping.”

The estimated supplemental funding needed for the Mississippi River Ship Channel (Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico) has increased to $100 millon to recover the Ship Channel in FY 19. The increase is related to the ongoing highwater continuing for longer than previously forecasted.  Apparently, the Corps has already repurposed a sizeable amount of funding intended to be used for the Hopper Dredge Disposal Area and foreshore rock protection in the effort to focus equipment on recovering Southwest Pass.   

The Big River Coalition estimates this level of funding would cover the following needs:

  1. SOUTHWEST PASS: The ability to fund three hopper dredges and one cutterhead dredge to work on restoring and maintaining federally authorized channel dimensions.  Southwest Pass is the top priority as the entrance and/or exit to the Mississippi River Ship Channel – “the revolving door to international trade.”
  1. CROSSINGS ABOVE NEW ORLEANS: Fund all three dustpan dredges to remove up to 30 feet of shoaling from the majority of the Crossings.  The present threat in Southwest Pass will eventually shift to the Crossings when the river stage recedes below 10 feet at New Orleans.
  1. HOPPER DREDGE DISPOSAL AREA (HDDA): The Corps was forced to repurpose funding for the FY 2019 HDDA (Work Plan) cutterhead dredge contract to focus on the shortfall of funding for Southwest Pass.  The HDDA project is critical to maintain full use of the disposal area for the hopper dredges working on the Ship Channel.  All material removed from the HDDA is beneficially used, each dredge contract creates 400 or more acres of wetlands.  

All three project areas are critical for a myriad of reasons and a deficiency in one will have a negative impact on the nation’s supply chain.  Southwest Pass is deficient and will take all dredges available to restore, the Crossings will indeed become deficient as the river stages drop.  The funding to replace that intended for the HDDA project, is key, as hopper dredges are already being limited on where they can place material in the HDDA.  The restoration of the HDDA is critical so that hopper dredges working to restore and maintain the Ship Channel can access the full reach of the HDDA with fully loaded hoppers.   Dredging the HDDA offers increased wetlands restoration through the beneficial use of dredged material in the environmentally sensitive bird’s-foot delta and protects the Ship Channel while also providing increased habitat for wildlife and migratory birds.  

The nation’s #1 Navigation Project is severely deficient, and the eyes of the world are upon us and trade futures are being impacted by the perceived unreliability of the Mississippi River Ship Channel.  A significant number of vessels have been delayed offshore at a low-end additional cost per day estimate of $25,000, dozens of vessels have lightered inside or outside of the U.S. at additional costs of up to $2,000,000 per vessel and there remain a large number of vessels offshore at Southwest Pass dependent upon the efforts to maintain and/or recover authorized dimensions on the Mississippi River Ship Channel. 

Thank you for your continued efforts and support, please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned with any questions.