The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is allocating $2.4 million on top of congressional spending this year for dredging the Red River. The J. Bennett Johnston Waterway Navigation Project received the additional funds for operation and maintenance. The head of the Red River Waterway Commission, Ken Guidry, says the funding is critical to keep industries based at the Port of Caddo-Bossier and the Alexandria Port.
“The economic development work that’s going on along the river -- the Cool Planets in Alexandria and the Bentelers up in Caddo-Bossier -- those kinds of projects seem to be in the pipeline all the time. From an economic development standpoint, the progress that’s been made in the short 20-plus years has been phenomenal,” Guidry said.
The waterway’s federal funding for this year -- $10.7 million in total -- will keep the locks and dams open at all times. It will also keep the navigation channel nine feet deep. Capt. Thomas Murphy, president of the Caddo-Bossier Parish Port Commission, says any delays for barge traffic will drive up costs.
“The expense of getting the cargo here in and out is operating 24/7 year-round, and we’ve got to match that with services, and without those services we lose customers,” Murphy said.
Guidry says the additional funding is simply to keep the status quo, ensuring the Red River is navigable for barge traffic. He says it doesn’t provide for building projects or recreation plans along the river. Blake Cooper, executive director of the Alexandria Port, says the ports must stay competitive to keep attracting industry.
“The Red River is a phenomenal asset to Shreveport, Alexandria and beyond. Certainly, when companies are coming in they’re looking at barge. Logistically, barges are less expensive per ton than your traditional modes of transportation, like rail and truck transportation,” Cooper said.
One state over in Mississippi, the Corps will direct more than $5 million in additional funds for dredging channels in that state.