St. Bernard Parish President Henry Rodriguez Jr. and the Port of New Orleans have reached an agreement on a plan to close the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) to deep draft vessels. Rodriguez and Port officials are proposing the plan to the Louisiana Congressional delegation and other key members of Congress as a roadmap to address both the environmental and economic issues surrounding the channel.

Hurricane Katrina has emphasized the need for significantly enhanced storm surge and flood prevention measures, adjustments to the depth of the MRGO, and the relocation of several terminals and industries dependent upon the MRGO at its currently authorized depth.

The five-point plan would reduce MRGO’s available draft while enhancing flood protection and coastal restoration.

‘The Parish President and the Port are speaking with one voice on this vitally important issue. We ask that our congressional delegation join with us in the effort to secure the necessary funding to implement this plan. We want to rebuild our communities in a way that enhances flood control for the residents of St. Bernard, while also acknowledging that we must rebuild our economy alongside our communities,’ said Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange.

St. Bernard Parish President Henry Rodriguez Jr., and LaGrange have signed a Memorandum of Understanding laying out the details of the plan to close the MRGO to deep draft navigation while also greatly enhancing hurricane protection for St. Bernard Parish

‘I believe this is a vital first step in securing the future of St. Bernard Parish,’ Rodriguez said. ‘These projects secure our homes and our property and give our residents the confidence they need to come home and rebuild.’

The plan includes:

  • Expediting the design and construction of a vessel floodgate and storm surge protection measures on the MRGO and in the Lake Borgne area, which would follow plans St. Bernard Parish set forth in a series of reports on coastal restoration and hurricane protection. The structures would control tidal movement and halt saltwater intrusion; move sediment through the controlled MRGO into estuary basins to help restore marshes and wetlands; enhance estuarine habitats through monitoring and control of marine and river flow and reef building initiatives; and provide manmade storm-surge protection. Additionally the plan calls for the creation of a training program for maritime and environmental technicians.
  • Completing the Congressionally authorized Inner Harbor Navigational Canal Lock at a length of 1,200 feet, 110 feet wide and 36 feet deep, which would allow an alternative route on the Mississippi River for most deep draft ships seeking to access cargo terminals and industrial sites that have been served by the MRGO.
  • Closing the MRGO to deep draft shipping by reducing its depth to 28 feet to serve the offshore oil and gas exploration and production activity, commercial and recreational fishing interests and other existing industry. The current project draft is 36 feet.
  • Constructing an industrial district with marine structures, such as wharves along the MRGO in St. Bernard Parish to accommodate port-related warehouses, maritime operations and industrial activity, such as offshore support vessels and other shallow-draft vessels.
  • Relocating certain existing maritime operations affected by the closure of the MRGO to deep draft navigation.