Increased dredging required by new draught restrictions on the Mississippi River could mean shortfalls next year in revenue for maintaining channels, a maritime executive warns.
On 7 August Louisiana Bar Pilots placed a 13.7 m (45 ft) draught restriction on the Southwest Pass, the 35-km section of river that allows deep-draught vessels passage between terminals on the Lower Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico.
The 0.6 m reduction in draught, necessitated by heavier than normal silting, will mean that the two hopper dredges currently dredging the channel – the US Army Corps’ Wheeler, and Manson Construction’s Newport – will likely continue to work through September, according to Sean Duffy, vice president at the Louisiana Maritime Association.
“Over the last five years or so the (US Army Corps of Engineers) has waited until the start of the calendar year to begin using fiscal year funds for maintenance dredging,” Duffy told IHS Maritime. “But it looks like we may need to start using 2016 funds beginning this October. That means by March or April next year we may be into funding shortages.”
The budget for fiscal year 2015 has been “severely depleted” on Southwest Pass contracts, Duffy said. The army corps also draw from federal funds to maintain draughts on the river crossings between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.