FILE - Port of New Orleans

New Orleans, located on the Mississippi River near the Gulf of Mexico, is home to one of the U.S.'s largest ports.

(The Center Square) – Louisiana and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials on Friday finalized an agreement to fund an estimated $250 million project to deepen the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico to Baton Rouge.

Louisiana’s share of the cost is estimated at $81 million, officials said.

“A deepened Mississippi River will be an economic superhighway for the state of Louisiana and the United States of America,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a signing ceremony in New Orleans.

The project will deepen the river from 45 to 50 feet to accommodate larger ships. While an extra five feet may not sound like much, the change will lead to an additional $125 million in annual economic impact, said Maj. Gen. Diana Holland, who commands the Corps’ Mississippi Valley Division. One foot of additional depth allows about $1 million in additional cargo, the governor’s office says.

"More capacity means greater efficiency in transportation and less costs for our nation’s producers,” Holland said. “From a benefit/cost perspective, that equates to a benefit $7.20 for every dollar spent on operation and maintenance, a significant return on investment."

In Louisiana, one in every five jobs is port-related, and 23 percent of the dollar amount of the state’s goods and services pass through the state’s ports, the governor’s office says. 

Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise says sediment from the project will be used to help rebuild the state’s coastline.

A project timeline was not announced Friday.

Staff Reporter

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.