The IEPR became available May 4, 2017 and is available here. The Chief of Engineers' response to the independent panel's peer review report is currently under development, and will be posted and distributed within 10 days of completion and signature.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), in partnership with the non-Federal sponsor (NFS), the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LaDOTD), propose construction to deepen the existing Mississippi River Ship Channel (MRSC), Gulf to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, project (sometimes referenced as the Baton Rouge, Louisiana to the Gulf of Mexico project). Currently, the project provides deep draft navigation along the lower portion of the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico to the city of Baton Rouge, LA. Specifically, the MRSC allows for deep draft access to the Louisiana ports of Plaquemines, New Orleans, South Louisiana, and Baton Rouge.
In 1985, the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 1985, Public Law 99-88 authorized the deepening of the existing channel (with the exception of that portion of the channel within the limits of the Port of New Orleans from its original depth of 40 feet (ft) to a depth of 55 ft in accordance with the Report of the Chief of Engineers dated April 9, 1983, SUBJECT: “Mississippi River Ship Channel, Gulf to Baton Rouge, Louisiana” (1983 Report). Construction of the channel was planned in three phases. Among other things, the first phase deepened the channel to 45 ft from the Gulf of Mexico to Donaldsonville, LA, and the second phase deepened the channel to 45 ft from Donaldsonville, LA to Baton Rouge, LA. The third phase planned to deepen the entire channel from the Gulf to Baton Rouge, LA to 55 ft. At the time of this report, the third phase has not been constructed.
The current depth of the MRSC results in the need for vessels such as bulk carriers and tankers to light load to navigate the channel and reach the ports. This results in increased transportation cost. High shoaling rates also result in an increase in sediment deposition, which creates maintenance inefficiencies, and increases dredge cycles. There is an opportunity to reduce transportation costs by increasing the channel depth and minimizing the need for light loading of vessels. There is also the opportunity to increase efficiencies of operation and maintenance.