The importance of maintaining a safe navigation channel assumes great significance when the role of the Mississippi River as the main stem of the vast inland waterways system is taken into account. With completion of the Ohio River canalization in 1929, the Upper Mississippi River canalization in 1940, and enlargement of the Intracoastal Waterway in 1943, a vast network of waterways for barge traffic was provided.
The 12-foot-deep Intracoastal Waterway system extends from New Orleans westward to the Mexican border, connecting the Mississippi River through Algiers and Harvey Locks with the important coastal harbors of Morgan City and Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Beaumont, Port Arthur, Galveston, Houston, Freeport, Corpus Christi, and Brownsville, Texas. Eastward from New Orleans through the Industrial Lock, the 12-foot depth of the Intracoastal Waterway extends 400 miles to Apalachee Bay, Florida, joining the Lower Mississippi with the seaports of Gulfport, Mississippi, Mobile, Alabama, and to Birmingport, near Birmingham, through the Tombigbee-Black Warrior system.
An alternate connection from the Mississippi River to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is provided by an improved 12- by 125-foot channel from Port Allen to Morgan City. At Port Allen, opposite Baton Rouge, a navigation lock 1,200 feet long and 84 feet wide provides passage through the west bank levee system to the Intracoastal Waterway.
The Atchafalaya River project provides barge transportation with a 12- by 125-foot channel connecting the Mississippi by a 75- by 1,200-foot lock in Old River with the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway at Morgan City. This year-round route is 175 miles shorter for barge transportation moving from the Texas and West Louisiana areas to the upper Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
The Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, completed in June 1965, is a dredged channel from New Orleans southeast to the Gulf of Mexico. The 76-mile waterway is shorter and easier to...