BIZMOLOGY — The Mississippi ranks as the fourth-longest river in the world, but what if it were a little deeper, say, deep enough to handle the larger vessels and cargo loads that will be allowed by the Panama Canal expansion?
A study released last week contends the economic impact would be huge.
Commissioned by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and the Big River Coalition, the report concludes that deepening the navigation channel to 50 feet from its current 45-foot draft would create $11.49 billion in increased US production, generate 16,991 new permanent jobs, and account for $849.5 million in increased income for American workers by 2024.
Such a project would have major implications not just for port authorities and other businesses that make their money from river transportation, but also producers and buyers of the myriad products transported via the Mississippi, including coal, fertilizer, grain, metals, and oil.
The proposed plan to dredge sections of the river between Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the Gulf of Mexico estimates initial construction costs of $295 million. More onerous are the annual maintenance costs of $90 million, but officials in Louisiana are counting on a provision in the current version of the Water Resources Development Act that would shift dredge maintenance responsibilities for a 50-foot channel from local to federal authorities.
Plenty of businesses that rely on the Mississippi, which has been plagued by floods and droughts in recent years, are hoping the funding comes through.