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With river dropping, Corps scrambling to keep ports dredged

MISSISSIPPI RIVER  — This year due to low water levels throughout the region and past flood damages, the Vicksburg District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will spend approximately $6.84 million on port dredging in an attempt to keep ports in operation.

Dredging will be performed through contracted dredging at six ports along the Mississippi River.

The $6.84 million in port dredging is only possible due to the funding recently received under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2012.  These funds are part of the larger effort to repair and restore the Mississippi Rivers and Tributaries (MR&T) system from the damage that occurred during the historic flood of 2011.  The original fiscal year 2012 federal budget allocated $87,600 for port dredging which only allowed for limited surveys of these shallow draft ports.

Although the District will strive to keep the ports open, low-water conditions and the expenditure of funds for port dredging operations will increase the possibility of ports being closed due to low water levels.

The District continually works with our partners and stakeholders to monitor water levels and provide a navigable port channel for normal barge traffic. Due to these low-water levels, the Corps has changed the current dredging schedule in order to maintain navigation as long as possible.

The Dredge Butcher, operated by the Pine Bluff Sand and Gravel Company, will engage in dredging at the ports and harbors being impacted by the low water stages.

The following locations will receive dredging on the date listed:

• Lake Providence, La., Port — estimated time of completion was June 29

• Madison Parish, La., Port — estimated time of completion is today

• Rosedale Harbor — estimated time of completion is Aug. 5

• Yellow Bend, Ark., Port — estimated time of completion is Aug. 11

• Greenville Harbor — estimated time of completion is Sept. 4

• Vicksburg Harbor — estimated time of completion is Sept. 30

The future of dredging in coming fiscal years is facing difficulties, according to the District. The current fiscal year 2013 federal budget allocates $157,000 for dredging of shallow draft ports and harbors, which will only fund limited surveying. The District continues to communicate future funding requirements within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and strives to identify possible future funding sources. The District will continue to work with its partners and stakeholders this year and in the future to monitor water levels and channel depths and keep the public and industry advised of any reductions in the depths of the ports. Although the District cannot guarantee the ports will remain navigable with a nine-foot channel, we will attempt to meet the needs of the region within the constraints of our budget this year and in the future.

The District has eight primary missions throughout the 68,000 square miles it encompasses. One of these missions is to maintain navigation channels, ports and harbors to allow commercial traffic to flow on the Mississippi River and other navigable waters in the District’s area of responsibility such as the Red River and Ouachita-Black Rivers.


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