A new economic study released at the Port of New Orleans argues the benefit of deepening the Mississippi River. The numbers come as ports around the country get ready for more business from a major expansion of the Panama Canal.
The report says money spent dredging the Mississippi River from the current 45 feet to 50 is a smart investment.
Former University of New Orleans president and economist Tim Ryan says his review shows a huge benefit -cost ratio.
“For every dollar spent, 89 dollars will be created in the economy of this nation,” Ryan said.
The report was commissioned by a coalition of more than 100 maritime interests along the river and the state Department of Transportation and Development.
They want a deeper river to accommodate more vessels.
Port President Gary La Grange says a similar report released in January last year showed benefits on a smaller scale when factoring in fewer types of cargo.
“This one deals with grain, petrochemical imports to all of the refineries, grain on the outbound side," LaGrange said. "Over 60 percent of all the grain in the country is exported right down the lower Mississippi River.”
Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter says the report provides evidence needed to pass the Water Resources Bill with more money for dredging.
“We absolutely need to do this," Vitter said. "And we’re not merely another smaller port vying for federal dollars to compete, Gulfport against Mobile. This is the lower Mississippi River.”
Ports around the country are hoping to get a greater share of maritime traffic when the Panama Canal doubles its capacity, an expansion now expected to finish in 2015.