A dredging project to deepen the lower Mississippi river, which is supported through checkoff investments, is making progress towards expanding U.S. soybean farmer market opportunities, reports the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA).
The effort to deepen the lower Mississippi River from 45 feet to 50 feet has long been championed by soybean farmers, whose checkoff investments were used in helping advance the project.
The Soy Transportation Coalition (STC) worked with the United Soybean Board (USB) to secure $2 million from USB to help offset the costs of research, planning, and designing of the dredging project.
According to Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the STC, the Crescent River Port Pilots Association on Dec. 20, 2021, increased its maximum draft recommendation to 48 feet. The association represents the pilots responsible for ocean vessel transit between Southwest Pass (River Mile 1.9 Above Head of Passes [AHP]) and New Orleans. Southwest Pass is the shipping channel at the southernmost portion of the Mississippi River that empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Associated Branch Pilots (the “Bar Pilots”) raised their maximum draft recommendation to 49 feet on Dec. 17, 2021. The Bar Pilots are responsible for ocean vessel transit between the Gulf of Mexico and Southwest Pass.
As a result, the allowable depth for over 150 miles of the lower Mississippi River is now set to 48 feet.
“This progress will take a number of years to complete but seeing the initial 150 miles being opened at a deeper level and some incremental gains being made as a result of that dredging work is very encouraging,” Steenhoek commented.
Ultimately, the project calls for a 50 foot channel all the way to Baton Rouge (river mile 232). Therefore, there are 82 miles of deepening remaining until the project is fully completed. This remaining work will likely take 2-3 more years due to the increased complexity of the river at that section, including submerged pipelines under the river, according to Steenhoek.
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