The Memphis District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has several missions associated with the Mississippi River. One of the most important is to keep the river channel at a depth that allows the river barge industry to dependably transport goods up and down the river.
To deliver on this charge, the Memphis District awarded a contract/task order in the amount of $7,987,200 to the Inland Dredging Company in April of 2019. On Dec. 23, 2019, Inland Dredging Co. completed all work with a total of 1,289,598 cubic yards of sediment dredged from all 10 Memphis District Harbors.
“The contract funded the mobilization, demobilization, downstream and upstream towing, as well as the dredging itself for all 10 harbors,” Operations Project Manager Vickie L. Watson said. “They [Inland Dredging Co.] started in July  in the Memphis Harbor/McKellar Lake with a focus on the mouth of the harbor because that’s where we seem to have the most sediment.”
Harbors dredged included the Elvis Stahr Harbor, Northwest Tennessee Regional Harbor, New Madrid Harbor Mile 889, New Madrid County Harbor, Caruthersville Harbor, Osceola Harbor, Helena Harbor, Helena Harbor Phillips County, Wolf River Harbor, and the Memphis Harbor/McKellar Lake.
All 10 harbors have been dredged annually since 2015. This becomes particularly important during high-water events like earlier in 2019.
“Every harbor was affected by the high water, but because we have dredged every year over the last four years, it was easy to remove the sediment that was placed,” Watson noted. “We didn’t have any flood-related damages in our harbors and that’s because of the maintenance work we do every year.”
Maintenance efforts go a long way in ensuring river traffic runs as smoothly as possible, and dredging is one key function the Memphis District prioritizes.
“These harbors serve as vital links to rail and highway transportation systems in the region, helping to deliver products and commodities to and from global markets,” Watson explained. “Without regular maintenance dredging, barges eventually couldn’t make their way up and down the river and in and out of the harbors as needed – this is why we [USACE] dredge and why it is so important to do so.”