The Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet shipping channel, which has been blamed for helping to inundate New Orleans, would be closed under a rebuilding plan introduced by city officials last week.

The commercial shipping channel, known locally from its initials as ‘Mr. Go,’ stretches for 76 miles along the city’s eastern edge.

It is little used for shipping and many in New Orleans say it contributes to the erosion of wetlands on the eastern side of the city that would help protect against storm surges during hurricanes.

Scientists from Louisiana State University’s Hurricane Center say the MRGO, along with the Intracoastal Waterway, acted as a funnel for the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina that hit on Aug. 29.

It has been blamed for contributing to the heavy flooding in New Orleans East and neighboring St. Bernard Parish.

The channel was built as short cut to the Gulf of Mexico from New Orleans and opened in 1965.

It has been a point of controversy from the beginning. Some city officials say it has fallen short of expectations, with traffic averaging only one vessel a day.

Experts have noted that Katrina damaged the shipping channel by dumping sediment that has reduced the waterway’s depth dramatically in some sections.

Closing it would have no effect on the vast amount of farm goods that move through the area each year, agricultural exporters and shippers said.

The Mississippi Gulf accounts for between 55 and 65% of the $60 billion worth of agricultural products that the United States exports each year. (Reuters)