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New agreement aims to deepen Mississippi River :Port sees opportunity for economic growth

LAPLACE — Governor John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently signed the Project Partnership Agreement to deepen the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico.

A statement from Governor Edwards says the project will deepen the lower portion of the Mississippi River from 45 feet to 50 feet. This will provide the depth needed for larger vessels to access ports at Plaquemines, New Orleans, South Louisiana and Baton Rouge.

The Port of South Louisiana fully supports this project and is hopeful it will lead to economic growth.

“The Mississippi River is America’s greatest natural resource. Today’s announcement ensures that Louisiana Ports and agricultural products from the Midwest remain competitive in the global marketplace. In fact, the Mississippi River connects 31 states to the world and 60 percent of all grain exported from the U.S. is shipped via the River,” said Paul Aucoin, the executive director of the Port of South Louisiana, the largest port by tonnage in the Western Hemisphere.

“I applaud the Governor for his tireless leadership and want to thank everyone that contributed to this historic accomplishment. It’s my hope that a fully dredged River will power our nation’s economy and help us recover from this terrible economic downturn caused by the pandemic.”

Sean M. Duffy, executive director of the Big River Coalition, said the deepening of the Ship Channel to 50 feet is a historic project will bring the nation’s most prolific artery of trade into the modern Post Panamax era.

“The deepening of this economic superhighway will offer significant cost savings to shippers and promote economy of scale efficiencies that will help stimulate trade for decades,” Duffy said. “As an executive director, I often say we win and lose as a team, and it is important for me to acknowledge the support of the Coalition’s Board (including the Port of South Louisiana) and the devoted membership.  This is a win for the team, we win and lose together.”

He added that the project benefits multiple sectors, including wetlands restoration through the beneficial use of dredged material.

“The acreage created by the deepening project will raise the total to over 12,000 acres that have been restored in the environmentally sensitive bird’s-foot delta since 2009,” Duffy said.

The Project Partnership Agreement is a critical step that establishes a legally binding agreement between the government and a non-federal sponsor (LDOTD) for construction of a water resources project. The Project Partnership Agreement details the official description of the project, lists the responsibilities of each party and documents the cost-sharing responsibilities and the schedule of work.

The effort to deepen the Mississippi River Ship Channel to 50 feet was revitalized by the Big River Coalition on August 25, 2012 after receiving a Memorandum from the USACE to their report to Congress on the nation’s preparedness for the deepening of the Panama Canal to 50 feet.