U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., today introduced the Dredging for Restoration and Economic Development for Global Exports (DREDGE) Act of 2013 in the Senate and House to direct the Corps of Engineers to achieve, operate and maintain a 50-foot channel from Baton Rouge to the mouth of the Mississippi River. The bill also includes a pilot project to expand beneficial use of the dredged materials to rebuild wetlands in the river's birdsfoot delta, which has drawn support from the Gulf Oyster Industry Council (GOIC).
To keep project costs low, the bill allows the Corps to deepen the river using existing maintenance funds over the next three years. The Corps would focus on dredging the Southwest Pass first, allowing vessels with 50 feet of draft to transit the first 175 miles of the river.
"Louisiana's strategic access to the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River is one of our most valuable economic assets," Sen. Landrieu said. "Dredging to 50 feet will allow for larger vessels and more traffic, making our maritime industry even more effective and competitive. This will not only be an economic boost, but expanded beneficial use of dredged material has the potential to greatly enhance our coastal restoration efforts. I am proud to join Rep. Richmond in this important initiative."
"For our economy to prosper, it is imperative that the single most important river in the United States be prepared for the 21st Century economy," said Rep. Richmond. "Readying the Mississippi River for the expanded Panama Canal is critical to taking advantage of new trade while expanding U.S. exports to businesses worldwide. By reintroducing the DREDGE Act with a diverse group of supporters, we invest in our economy while strengthening wetland restoration efforts in Louisiana. I look forward to working with my Republican and Democratic colleagues, as well as Senator Landrieu who is introducing this legislation in the Senate. As a nation, we must continue making smart investments in our infrastructure to remain competitive in the global market."
"Oyster farmers in the Gulf States have been in the trenches of the battle against coastal erosion since they started working these waters nearly 200 years ago," GOIC Board Member Al Sunseri said. "This legislation is good public policy and a wise use of public funds that are now being wasted off the outer continental shelf which has probably exacerbated the dead zone in the Gulf. The GOIC will do everything we can to help pass this common sense, solution-driven legislation."