New Orleans, La. – The president of the Associated Branch Pilots says new restrictions are starting tomorrow limiting the depth of vessels from 45 feet to 43 feet below the surface. That means lighter cargo and lost income to maritime interests. Captain Mike Lorino joined a panel of lawmakers and business leaders at the Port of New Orleans calling on the Corps to step up the dredging work.
"They have left the Mississippi River - the greatest waterway in the world - open to disaster."
Chris Accardo is the Corps' Chief of Operations for the New Orleans district. He says more dredging means more money, and it's not in the budget.
"If we do get additional funds, by all means, we will go ahead and readjust the dredging schedule to try to make sure we provide the best channel we can with the funds we have."
Accardo says $63 million was budgeted for dredging, and it's gone up to $84 million dollars.
Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain says the Mississippi is vital to the nation's economy.
"Sixty percent of the agricultural production in America comes down the Mississippi River - 60 percent of $300 billion dollars."
Republican Congressman Steve Scalise of Jefferson says the region's lawmakers are pushing bipartisan support of getting more money for keeping the river fully open. He says $95 million would do the job. Officials say the high water means heavy sediment is expected through the middle of next month.
For WWNO, I'm Eileen Fleming.