The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, created approximately 850 acres of wetlands in 2014 through the beneficial placement of approximately 60 percent of the material dredged from Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River.
“With Louisiana continuing to lose its coastal wetlands, the Corps established new goals for maximizing the amount of dredged material that is placed beneficially,” said Col. Richard Hansen, commander of the New Orleans District. “Over the past 5 years, we have significantly increased the use of cutterhead dredges to maintain the navigation channel through Southwest Pass.”
The use of cutterhead dredges allows the Corps to place the material dredged immediately for bank stabilization and the creation of wetlands, instead of into open water disposal areas. As a direct result of this effort, the annual average use of dredged material for wetland creation has increased from 20% to 50%. The success of the increased use of cutterhead dredges was possible through close coordination with navigation stakeholders, as well as favorable river conditions and shoaling.
In 2014, two cutterhead dredging contracts were able to place a substantial amount of material beneficially. Approximately 8.9 million cubic yards of material were removed from the Southwest Pass navigation channel and placed in shallow open water areas adjacent to the channel, which created approximately 850 acres of marsh. Additional lower Mississippi River dredging contracts are scheduled to be awarded in the 2014 fiscal year, which will create additional acres along the Baptiste Collette navigation channel and in the Delta National Wildlife Refuge.
The Lower Mississippi River deep draft navigation channel is a vital conduit for the Nation’s economy and supports over 252 million tons of cargo annually at the Port of South Louisiana alone. To ensure safe, efficient navigation through the lower Mississippi River channel, the US Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District works from an annually appropriated budget to dredge the Mississippi River.
From the Gulf of Mexico, through Southwest Pass, up to River Mile 10 AHP, the Corps removes approximately 17 million cubic yards of sediment each year from the deep draft navigation channel. To the maximum extent possible, the Corps uses this material beneficially to nourish wetlands and other coastal ecosystems neighboring the channel.