The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Mississippi Valley New Orleans (MVN) beneficially used a record breaking 24.2 million cubic yards (mcy) of dredged material during channel maintenance activities along the Mississippi River below Venice in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. The Great Flood of 2019 carried record amounts of sediment to the Mississippi River Ship Channel (MRSC) requiring the removal of 78.5 million cubic yards (mcy) of sediment to restore the Ship Channel. The MVN’s FY 2019 channel maintenance activities also required the removal of 9.5 mcy from the Hopper Dredge Disposal Area (HDDA) increasing the total dredged to 88.0 mcy (78.5 mcy + 9.5 mcy). The recovery of the channel in the area of Southwest Pass (SWP) from the Great Flood of 2019 required the removal of 58.4 mcy of sediment that clogged this critical artery of trade, that is the second highest amount of material ever dredged from SWP. The record amount for material dredged from the area of SWP was generated by the sediment laden waters of the Flood of 1973. Due to the length of this historic flood, 62.7 mcy of sediment had to be removed from SWP in FY 1974. The average amount of sediment removed from the entire length of the Ship Channel in a fiscal year is 51 mcy. The MVN recently confirmed the acreage created through the beneficial use of dredged material removed from the Ship Channel and the HDDA in FY 2019 is a record for acreage restored as 1,724 acres of wetlands were created in the area of Southwest Pass (Venice to the Gulf of Mexico).
The top five records for beneficial use (sediment recycling) in the U.S. have all occurred along the Mississippi River Ship Channel. The top three records were established in the last four fiscal years:
- 24.2 million cubic yards in FY 2019 were beneficially utilized while dredging the Ship Channel and the Hopper Dredge Disposal Area to restore 1,724 acres of wetlands.
- 21.00 million cubic yards in FY 2015 were beneficially utilized while dredging the Ship Channel and the Hopper Dredge Disposal Area to restore 1,041 acres of wetlands.
- 20.70 million cubic yards in FY 2017 were beneficially utilized while dredging the Ship Channel and the Hopper Dredge Disposal Area to restore 1,468 acres of wetlands.
The previous records for beneficial use were both established by projects that deepened the MRSC, a critical component of the deepening of the MRSC to 50 feet. The USACE has indicated that the deepening project would restore an additional 1,500 acres of wetlands below Venice.
- 19.80 million cubic yards in FY 1961 attributed to the channel deepening from 35 to 40 feet.
- 18.50 million cubic yards in FY 1987 attributed to the channel deepening from 40 to 45 feet.
Also attached to this document is a table titled “LARGEST WETLANDS RESTORATION PROJECT IN THE WORLD” which documents the beneficial use by fiscal year.
The “Sediment Recycling” efforts have now beneficially used over 146.80 mcy of material to create or restore 10,665 acres of wetlands the equivalent of 16.66 square miles of marsh in the environmentally sensitive bird’s-foot delta (since 2009). The total of 146.80 mcy represents the equivalent of approximately 14.70 million dump trucks of sediment being transported to our coast. Please refer to the attached table for a breakdown highlighting the cubic yardage and acreage added on a fiscal year basis. The acreage for Fiscal Year 2020 is approximated based upon the cubic yardage and past experience by the MVN.
This project is the Largest Wetlands Restoration Project in the World and these totals are expected to increase every year.
The increased acreage along the channel edges of Southwest Pass and the Ship Channel below Venice helps to fortify the extreme lower river from the impact of storm surge and the encroachment of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Big River Coalition would like to thank the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their leadership and dedication to increase the beneficial use of dredged material for coastal restoration purposes. The support of the following parties is also critical to the success of this effort, specifically the Bar Pilots, Crescent Pilots, Federal Pilots, Dredge Contractors, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.