Lower Mississippi River: Spotlight on critical drainage channels

Throughout its history, the Lower Mississippi River Flood Plain has been besieged by floodwaters; that’s why flood risk management is one of the USACE Memphis District’s major mission areas.

Working to execute this mission and serving as that first line of defense, a Memphis District Project Delivery Team awarded three major contracts to perform maintenance on drainage channels 1 and 251, which are located in the Little River Drainage District in Southeast Missouri.

The contracts are for lower Ditch 251, upper Ditch 251, and upper Ditch 1 and authorize contractors to go in and return a total of 89 miles worth of drainage channels to their authorized level of flood protection.

Jairus Stroupe, the project manager who led the group responsible for executing these contracts, said maintaining these drainage channels is necessary because of the way the Little River Drainage Basin naturally fills the ditches with sediment.

“Over time, drainage channels naturally fill in with sediment and debris which eventually cause adverse hydrologic impacts such as channel scouring, flow meandering, and a reduction in flood capacity within the channel which allows water to flow out of the channel’s banks,” Stroupe said.

“Channel cleanout projects are crucial for maintaining the capacity of the drainage conveyance to a) prevent damage to adjacent agricultural areas, b) reduce the chances of flooding of nearby roads and infrastructure, and c) reduce the risks of flooding and the threats to communities throughout our nation.”

The Lower Ditch 251 contract was awarded June 11 to Babcock Service Disabled Veteran SDV, LLC in the amount of $5,072,511. The purpose of this project is to return a 21 mile reach of Ditch 251 to its authorized level of flood protection. The contractor will begin mobilizing later this month with the project scheduled to be complete by June 2022. 

The Upper Ditch 251 contract was awarded July 31 to Randy Kinder Excavation in the amount of $8,890,292. The purpose of this project is to return a 30 mile reach of Ditch 251 to its authorized level of flood protection. The contractor will begin mobilizing within the next few months with a tentative completion date of September 2022. 

The Upper Ditch 1 contract was awarded July 31 to Babcock Service Disabled Veteran, LLC in the amount of $7,962,753. The purpose of this project is to return a 38 mile reach of Ditch 1 to its authorized level of flood protection. The contractor will begin mobilizing within the next few months with a projected complete date of September 2022. 

Returning each ditch to its authorized level of flood protection involves clearing and snagging, channel excavation, and disposal and shaping of the excavated material.

Photo: Jessica Haas, USACE

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