Dredging the Mississippi: a look inside the process

Dredging the Mississippi: a look inside the process

(WMC) - The Army Corps of Engineers is working to remove sediment nearly 50 feet beneath the surface of the Mississippi River.

It's all in an effort to keep the Mighty Mississippi rolling safely with shipping vessels.

A 350-foot-long Dredge Hurley is floating in the river just outside of Memphis. The long boat is carrying a dredging ladder capable of digging 48-feet down into the river.

"Basically dredging is just helping the river do what it wants to do," Joe Schafer, Hurley assistant master, said.

A surveyor boat checks the bottom of the river for sediment buildup. Schafer says the build up disconnects the deep water and leaves shallow pockets that deep boats cannot pass through.

Laws require certain parts of the river to have specific dimensions.

"We're mandated to have a 300-feet-wide, 12-feet-deep channel in our district. When we don't give them that, and we affect industry, then we're not doing our jobs," Schafer said.

If the dredge does its' job, the bottom of the river will stay deep enough for large barges to pass through without any problems.

"If you don't address it, when Mother Nature decides for it not to rain anymore, here comes a problem," Schafer said.

The Dredge Hurley spends about 30 to 60 days dredging the Mississippi River each year. It's capable of pumping over 100,000 cubic yards of sand off the bottom of the river on any given day.

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