By Kavanaugh Breazeale
VICKSBURG, Miss. — Due to low water this year and past flood damages, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Vicksburg District 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.
Funding was obtained by the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2012, which made the $6.4 million in port dredging possible. 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 USACE 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 Vicksburg District continually works with 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:
Rosedale, Mississippi, Harbor estimated time of completion is Aug. 5, 2012.
Yellow Bend, Arkansas Port estimated time of completion is Aug. 11, 2012.
Greenville, Mississippi, Harbor estimated time of completion is Sep. 4, 2012.
Vicksburg, Mississippi, Harbor estimated time of completion is Sep. 30, 2012.
The future of dredging in coming fiscal years is facing difficulties. 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 Vicksburg 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.
The Vicksburg 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. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides a value to the nation and local economies through programs such as shallow draft harbor maintenance which is vital for the distribution of agriculture products during harvest seasons and the logistical movement of industrial materials throughout the year.