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Delayed by high water, mat sinking unit prepares to launch

MISSISSIPPI RIVER — The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) Vicksburg District’s Mat Sinking Unit (MSU) is scheduled to begin laying articulated concrete mats on the banks of the Mississippi River Aug. 26.

The MSU is the only one of its kind in the world and performs one of the most important jobs in the Corps’ river stabilization program. The MSU consists of the motor vessels Benyaurd, William James and Harrison, which work together to assist with the distribution of articulated concrete mat squares on the river banks.

The MSU is known as a floating city that houses and feeds the employees while they are out and has the capabilities to provide all electricity and potable water needed.

The mat-laying season is an annual mission that usually starts in the late summer months when river stages are low and continues until river stages become too high or the scheduled amount of concrete mats has been distributed. This year’s season was delayed by almost two months due to high water.

The unit will begin laying the mats at mile 512.1 near Greenville, and will complete its mission in early March at mile 29.6 near Tropical Bend with a total of 316,000 squares, or 72,293 linear feet of mats having been laid.

The concrete mats assist with the prevention of erosion and protect submerged riverbanks.

The scope of work encompasses the three Corps districts of Memphis, Vicksburg, and New Orleans.

“I’ve been involved in river work for over 30 years now, and I’m still waiting for that ‘normal’ year. Each year brings its own set of challenges, and this year is no different,” said Andy Metts, chief of the Navigation Section of the Operations Division.

The MSU employs approximately 60 full-time employees and 240 seasonal and temporary employees who reside in several states.

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