The Big River Coalition provided the linked testimony to Lieutenant General Scott Spellmon, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Chief of Engineers, to document the benefits provided through the Regional Dredge Demonstration Program (RDDP) with a focus on increased channel maintenance on the Mississippi River Ship Channel (MRSC).

The Coalition also shared the attached document with members of the Louisiana and Mississippi Congressional Delegation to highlight the improvements generated by the Regional Dredge Demonstration Program.

The information is being shared with our membership to highlight the benefits of the RDDP and increased appropriations that expanded channel maintenance and provided funding for the deepening of the MRSC to 50 feet.

“Significant –and occasionally even historic –storm events continue to occur across the nation, impacting critical Federal commercial navigation projects throughout the United States. Those impacts have been particularly acute across the Gulf Coast region as significant and prolonged shoaling patterns resulting from these recurring storm events continue to degrade Federal navigation channel conditions and adversely impact commercial deep draft navigation.  The goal of the Regional Dredge Demonstration Program is to minimize disruption to the delivery of the dredging mission, and of the vital cargo which depends on execution of this mission, and of the vital cargo which depends on execution of this mission across the Nation, as a result of the significant shoaling in the Gulf region. The combination of extensive shoaling from recurring storm events on top of significant routine annual dredging demands have resulted in high utilization rates for U.S. hopper dredging assets in recent years, including both industry and Corps dredges.”

“To demonstrate the described multi-year efficiencies, the Committee recommends $525,000,000 in a Regional Dredge Demonstration Program funding pot in the Construction account to be used for deep draft navigation projects in the Gulf of Mexico, between Louisiana and Florida. Further, additional funding has been recommended in the O&M account to support the Gulf of Mexico demonstration projects.”

“The following metrics, and other appropriate metrics identified by the Corps, will be used to evaluate the success of the program during the execution period:

–Improved project schedules/faster construction execution at the demonstration projects:

–Fewer disruptions to other projects across the enterprise due to emergencies at the Southwest Pass (pulling dredge of projects);

–Fewer or no bid busts (bid higher than the Independent Government Estimate by 25%) for the demonstration projects;

–Reduced cost per cubic yard at the demonstration projects and/or across the enterprise for hopper dredge contracts;

–Efficiency of contract award process at the demonstration projects; and

–Fewer “no bid” responses at Mississippi River Baton Rouge to Gulf hopper dredge contracts.”

The Coalition promotes the continuance of the Regional Dredge Demonstration Program and highlights the benefits offered by the increased funding levels and formulated policy adjustments.

The specific improvements from the RDDP not directly related to the channel deepening project are:

  1. The ability to contract hopper dredges in advance of shoaling, for the first time ever the USACE was able to awarded hopper dredge contracts in advance.  Three hopper dredges presently working in Southwest Pass were awarded contracts in Fiscal Year 2020 (GLENN EDWARDS, NEWPORT and STUYVESANT) in advance of shoaling or emergency channel conditions (draft restrictions).
  2. The regional hopper dredge contract with a dredge simultaneously under contract to work for both the Mobile and New Orleans Corps Districts (NEWPORT – in 2020).
  3. An ancillary benefit to increased appropriations is that the dredge industry is actively constructing three new large hopper dredges and two other contractors are reportedly in various stages of the design phase to build two additional new hopper dredges.  Two large cutterhead dredges are also presently being constructed.  All five of the new dredges are presently being constructed in Gulf Coast shipyards.

The Big River Coalition is hopeful that this testimony will be helpful to the USACE and Congress based on the following language from the RDDP:

“The Corps shall provide quarterly briefings to Congress on the status of the demonstration program including regular updates on the lesson learned. Following completion of the Gulf demonstration program, or no later than 6 months after completion of the last demonstration project contract, the Corps shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations of both House of Congress documenting the critical knowledge and experience gained during this program.”..