Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet Canal

Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet Canal

The Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet Canal (also known as MRGO, MR-GO or "Mr. Go") is a Convert|76|mi|km|0|abbr=on channel that provides a shorter route between the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans's inner harbor. The canal extends from north of New Orleans (between it and Lake Pontchartrain) then takes a path SSE through wetlands to the Gulf of Mexico ending near Gardner Island.

It is intended to be useful both as a shorter route than the twists of the Mississippi River and for deep-draft vessels that cannot fit through canal locks of the Industrial Canal. The canal extends northwest from deep water in the Gulf of Mexico to the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal at the Port of New Orleans. Authorization was provided by the Congress of the United States in the River and Harbor Act of 1956.cite web
title=Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Evaluation Report, March 1997
work=Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District
] Construction was completed in 1965.

Because of erosion, it was as much as three times as wide by 1989 than was originally constructed. When MR-GO was built, the channel was convert|650|ft|m wide at the surface. The average width is now Convert|1500|ft|m|0|abbr=on.

On May 19, 2007 the US Army Corps of Engineers announced it wants to build an earthen dam to plug the navigation channel. The corps will present a final plan to Congress by the end of the year, and Congress must still approve it. Officials said that if Congress doesn’t balk or slow the process down, a dam could be built by the start of next hurricane season.Fact|date=August 2008update

MR-GO's disappointing performance and possible causes

According to a congressional hearing statement by Scott Faber of the Environmental Defense Fund, "Traffic on the MRGO has fallen by more than 50 percent since 1986. Today, less than one oceangoing vessel per day, on average, uses this man-made short cut, which costs approximately $13 million annually to maintain. Like many waterways constructed by the Corps, the MRGO has failed to attract as much traffic as the Corps predicted when the project was constructed." [Faber, Scott (2005), U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, Hearing Statements, Date: 11/09/2005 [http://epw.senate.gov/hearing_statements.cfm?id=248649] ] Prior to Hurricane Katrina, environmentalists and others, including voters in St. Bernard Parish whom the canal was intended to help, called for its closure. [Southeastern Louisiana University, The SLU Poll: Attitudes Among St. Bernard Parish Voters About The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, Date: 5/26/2004 [http://www2.selu.edu/NewsEvents/PublicInfoOffice//MRGOPoll.html] ]

In 1997, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian organization dedicated to "the principles of free enterprise and limited government" attacked it on economic grounds: :The promised economic development along the convert|76|mi|km|0|sing=on channel in St. Bernard Parish has yet to materialize. What the MRGO has delivered is an $8-plus million yearly maintenance plan for commercial and recreational waterborne traffic. The nearly $1 billion price tag for the less than two large container ships a day that use the channel is baffling, especially considering that the channel only shaved convert|37|mi|km|0 off the original route. Worse, the MRGO has created numerous environmental problems. The rate of bank erosion is estimated at convert|15|ft|m per year. [Barrett, David (1997), "Washington Waterworld" Competitive Enterprise Institute, May 1, 1997 [https://www.cei.org/gencon/005,01259.cfm] ]

Criticism intensified following the hurricane, when engineers implicated MR-GO in the failure of levees and flood-walls protecting New Orleans.

A proposal, see below, has already been discussed where gates would be added to solve both the storm surge that hurricanes produces while allowing ships to use the shortcut.

Role in Hurricane Katrina disaster

Levees along MR-GO were breached in approximately 20 places along its length, directly flooding most of Saint Bernard Parish and New Orleans East. Storm surge from MR-GO is also a leading suspect in the three breaches of the Industrial Canal.

Three months before Katrina, Hassan Mashriqui, a storm surge expert at Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center, called MR-GO a "critical and fundamental flaw" in the Corps' hurricane defenses, a "Trojan Horse" that could amplify storm surges 20 to 40 percent. Following the storm, an engineering investigation and computer modelling showed that the outlet intensified the initial surge by 20 percent, raised the height of the wall of water about three feet, and increased the velocity of the surge from convert|3|ft/s|m/s|1 to convert|8|ft/s|m/s|1 in the funnel. Mashriqui believes this contributed to the scouring that undermined the levees and floodwalls along the outlet and Industrial Canal. "Without MRGO, the flooding would have been much less," he said. "The levees might have overtopped, but they wouldn't have been washed away." The Army Corps of Engineers disputes this causality and maintains Katrina would have overwhelmed the levees with or without the contributing effect of MR-GO. ["Investigators Link Levee Failures to Design Flaws; Three Teams of Engineers Find Weakened Soil, Navigation Canal Contributed to La. Collapses." The Washington Post, October 24 2005 [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/23/AR2005102301200_pf.html] ]

The shoaling of the MR-GO has caused it to be unpassable for deep-draft vessels. Officials of St. Bernard Parish oppose its reopening. Others have called for re-opening it but equipping it with protective floodgates, or accelerating construction of the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal lock project, which when completed would allow MR-GO to be closed without affecting commercial traffic. ["Katrina may mean MR-GO has to go," New Orleans Times-Picayune, October 24 2005 [http://www.nola.com/printer/printer.ssf?/base/news-4/1130133302133590.xm] ]

In May 2007 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers went public with a request to close the MR-GO to all traffic and to build an earthen dam to block it. The announcement was greeted positively by most, but not all, Louisiana residents. May 19 2007 [ [http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/neworleans/7595762.html 2theadvocate.com | New Orleans | Corps to dam MRGO — Baton Rouge, LA ] ]

A lot of St. Bernard residents feel that it should be closed in order to prevent flooding during the next hurricane.

Proposals for adding gates

Similar to Rotterdam, it has been suggested by some that gates be added to MR-GO to stop storm surge.

Others, including St. Bernard Parish itself, insist that only total closure can restore the wetlands destroyed by the MRGO. The plan proposed by the State of Louisiana also calls for the complete closure of the MRGO.

[http://www.nola.com/katrina/pdf/022506_proposed_gates.pdf Picture of Proposed Gates at MR-GO] [http://www.wwltv.com/local/specials/stories/WWL012006tpeditorial.229e0d3b.html WWL Editorial] [http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/frontpage/index.ssf?/base/news-5/1140852208163710.xml Bush seeks $1.46 billion in new storm protection]

MR-GO and the Port of New Orleans

Measuring ship traffic though the channel only tells a small part of the complete economic story of MR-GO. Business in the Port of New Orleans, though still vital to the nation's heartland, has been decreasing since the oil bust.Fact|date=November 2007 As a result, businesses have moved away from New Orleans and Louisiana. Ship traffic at the nearby Port of Houston based on containers far surpasses New Orleans. [ [http://www.iwr.usace.army.mil/ndc/wcsc/by_porttons05.htm U.S. Waterborne Container Traffic by Port/Waterway in 2005] . United States Army Corps of Engineers Navigation Data Center. Last Retrieved 2007-11-17.] The number of container ships arriving in New Orleans has decreased, but the large freighters that carry coal, grain, oil, etc. have increased as Latin America continues to increase its mineral and crop exports.Fact|date=November 2007

The depth of MR-GO is insufficient for large oceangoing container ships that can carry on average, 5,000 containers. Ships now are being built to hold 7,000 containers and there are some now being build to handle 13,000 containers.Fact|date=November 2007

New Orleans's ability to unload freighters is one of the fastest in the world when it comes to unloading minerals and crops. In this respect, New Orleans has begun to distance itself from the handling of container goods, since the port has only four robotic handling machines,Fact|date=November 2007 which can cause serious delays for container ships.

Additionally, because the winding nature of the Mississippi river (e.g. hair pin turns) and the many sand bars and hidden currents, the costs of pilots navigating the Mississippi river are some of the highest in America which also increases shipping costs through the Port of New Orleans.

ee also



External links

* [http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2005/08/30/mcphee/index1.html Excerpt from "The Control of Nature" by John McPhee]
* [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/13/AR2005091302196.html "Canal May Have Worsened City's Flooding"] , "Washington Post", Wednesday, September 14 2005
* [http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/frontpage/index.ssf?/base/news-4/113670456489340.xml "MR-GO goes from hero to villain"] , New Orleans Times-Picayune, Sunday, January 8 2006
* [http://www.ccmrgo.org/ Close MR-GO] site advocating closing the waterway
* [http://www.iwr.usace.army.mil/ndc/wcsc/by_porttons03.htm U.S. Waterborne Container Traffic by Port/Waterway in 2003]
* [http://www.mrgomustgo.org MRGO Must Go - A coalition of Groups dedicated to closing the MRGO]
* [http://www.issues.org/13.1/bookma.htm U.S. Seaports: At the Crossroads of the Global Economy]
* [http://www.portno.com/ Port of New Orleans]

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