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Legislators: Corps' dredging policy hurting river commerce

MISSISSIPPI RIVER — American merchandise and farm products intended for export via the Mississippi River are being hampered due to a lack of dredging activity on lower reaches of the river, U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) asserted in a letter sent April 1 to President Obama.

Cochran and Wicker signed a letter drafted by Senators David Vitter (R-La.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) that calls the President’s attention to the consequences of a new Army Corps of Engineers policy to limit dredging activities on the Lower Mississippi River. The policy has allowed silt to accumulate and restrict the width and depth of the deep-draft navigation channel that is vital to moving U.S. goods on more than 12,000 miles of waterways to the Gulf of Mexico for export, the senators say.

“The commerce from our ports in the Delta, Vicksburg and Natchez will be disadvantaged if the Lower Mississippi River channel is restricted enough to slow or stop shipments,” Cochran said. “I believe the Obama administration needs to address this problem now before it becomes more critical.”

The Army Corps policy change on dredging has led to shipping restrictions, which could be worsened as river levels drop in the next few months, the senators claim. The Corps has warned that it may only be able to guarantee a 40-foot channel in late spring, which is five feet less than the authorized channel depth. Some shippers estimate that a one-foot reduction would require ships to reduce cargo by 1,500 tons.

The Senators’ letter cites the effect the lack of dredging and reduced capacity will have on shipping costs and overall U.S. international competitiveness.

The letter was also signed by Senators John Boozman (R-Ark.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

Source: Sen. Thad Cochran’s Office

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