The combination of Mississippi River flood water levels dropping and the river’s bottom silting up is creating what some call a navigation emergency in the channel between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico.
Sean M. Duffy Sr., administrator of the Big River Coalition, said that the Associated Branch Pilots, who guide ships through the Southwest Pass to the port of New Orleans, will begin enforcing a 43-foot limit on vessel drafts beginning Wednesday. The channel’s authorized depth is 45 feet.
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“The Corps says it doesn’t have the money to reprogram for more dredging,” Duffy said. “They say they have money for only one contract dredge when we need three or four.” One of the dredges now working the river is scheduled to depart later this week.
Louisiana congressmen Steve Scalise and Charles Boustany, both Republicans, today called on the White House to support $95 million in emergency supplemental appropriations for additional dredging.
Rick Calhoun, chairman of the Waterways Council, a river operators trade group, joined the call for emergency appropriations, saying the accumulated silt at the mouth of the river has created an emergency “that imminently threatens the ability of vessels to enter and exit the river.”
“It’s as bad as anyone has ever seen in,” Duffy said, adding that the channel could become as shallow as 35 feet. The only time the channel has been as low as 35 feet was after Hurricane Katrina.
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