The MISSISSIPPI RIVER – GULF OUTLET CANAL (abbreviated as MRGO or
MR-GO) is a 76 mi (122 km) channel constructed by the United States
Army Corps of Engineers at the direction of Congress in the mid-20th
century that provided a shorter route between the
Gulf of Mexico and
The MRGO begins just east of I-510\'s crossing of the Gulf
* 1 History * 2 MRGO\'s operational performance * 3 Role in Hurricane Katrina disaster * 4 Closure * 5 Surge Barrier * 6 See also * 7 Notes * 8 External links
Conceptually, the MRGO was first envisioned early in the 20th century
as a way to provide shipping with a shorter route to the Gulf of
Mexico. The Port of
In 1943, the proposed project was initially presented to the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers by the Dock Board of
In a matter of decades, the rapid growth of average ship size in the
20th century rendered the canal locks connecting the Industrial Canal
Due to rapid erosion of the surrounding marsh, the canal was already as much as three times wider by 1989 than as originally constructed. When MRGO was built, the channel was 650 feet (200 m) wide at the surface. In 1989 the average width had become 1,500 ft (457 m). This degradation continued for the next 16 years.
MRGO\'S OPERATIONAL PERFORMANCE
Intersection of MRGO (to right) with the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, as seen from I-510 Bridge Tugboat and barge in MRGO at Shell Beach, St. Bernard Parish
With the completion of MRGO in 1965, the Port of
After the abandonment of the Centroport project, the Port of New Orleans refocused its efforts on improving its infrastructure along the Mississippi River, and what little maritime traffic the MRGO hosted progressively dwindled, opening it up to withering critiques.
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 76-mile (122 km) 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 37 miles (60 km) off the original route. Worse, the MRGO has created numerous environmental problems. The rate of bank erosion is estimated at 15 feet (4.6 m) per year.
Prior to Hurricane Katrina , environmentalists and others, including voters in St. Bernard Parish whom the canal was intended to help, called for its closure.
Criticism intensified following the hurricane, when engineers
implicated the MRGO in the failure of levees and flood-walls
protecting large parts of Greater
According to a congressional hearing statement made in late 2005 by Scott Faber of the Environmental Defense Fund, "Traffic on the MR-GO 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 MR-GO failed to attract as much traffic as the Corps predicted when the project was constructed."
ROLE IN HURRICANE KATRINA DISASTER
Inscription on house in storm-surge devastated neighborhood of
Levees along the MRGO and the
Three months before Katrina, Hassan Mashriqui, a storm surge expert
Louisiana State University
Katrina's passage caused extensive shoaling of the MRGO, resulting in its impassability for deep-draft oceangoing vessels. Officials of St. Bernard Parish immediately opposed its reopening. Maritime interests called for re-opening the Gulf Outlet but equipping it with protective floodgates, or accelerating construction of the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal lock project , which when completed would allow MRGO to be closed without affecting deep-draft commercial traffic.
Closure structure across MRGO at Bayou La Loutre shortly before completion, July 2009
In May 2007 the Corps of Engineers announced it would close the MRGO to all traffic and would build an earthen dam across the MRGO in alignment with the natural ridge paralleling Bayou La Loutre. The Bayou La Loutre ridge siting was selected to complement future wetland restoration efforts, as the natural ridge could regain its historic function of sheltering the marsh and swamp behind from the Gulf of Mexico.
Construction began in late 2008, and the Corps of Engineers completed the closure structure across the MRGO at Bayou La Loutre in July 2009.
Main article: IHNC Lake Borgne Surge Barrier
Closer to New Orleans, a robust 1.8 mile surge barrier costing more
than $1 billion was constructed. The surge barrier closed the narrow
end of the "funnel" described by the convergence of the levees
bounding the northern edge of the