US Army Corps of Engineers
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Memphis Revetment Season in full swing

Published June 15, 2020

IN THE PHOTO, USACE Vicksburg District's Mat Sinking Unit performing revetment work at Mississippi River mile marker 632 near Fair Landing, Arkansas, 30 miles south of Helena, Arkansas.


IN THE PHOTO, Memphis District Commander Col. Zachary Miller held a ceremony to mark the beginning of the 2020-2021 revetment season.


IN THE PHOTO, Memphis District Commander Col. Zachary Miller held a ceremony to mark the beginning of the 2020-2021 revetment season.


IN THE PHOTO, The Motor Vessel Goodwin tends the Clearing & Snagging Unit. (USACE Photo/Brenda Beasley)


Memphis District’s Clearing and Snagging Unit works on the river bank near West Memphis, Arkansas. As the first step of Revetment Operations, crew members clear the river banks of trees and debris to make way for the Bank Grading Unit and the Matt Sinking Unit. The work’s accomplished using a barge mounted dragline, bulldozers, and backhoes. Revetment Operations normally run from July to November each year. (USACE Photo/Brenda Beasley)

The Memphis District Revetment season officially began this year on June 11, with District Commander Col. Zachary Miller hosting a kickoff meeting at the Ensley Engineer Yard to get things started.

Revetment operations are primarily the preparation for, and placement of articulated concrete mattress (ACM) from the water's edge, out to design limits in conjunction with stone paving, from water's edge to top bank; which stabilizes the river bank and maintains the proper navigation channel alignment.

“Protecting the Mississippi River banks keeps the channel in place, which maintains the necessary depth and alignment that allows the thousands of tows to travel up and down the river year round,” the commander said. “Without this work, the river would shift resulting in new, shallow cutoffs that could not be safely traveled.”

Col. Miller went on to say that protecting the river banks also provides the first line of defense against Mississippi River floods. 

“We have the best levees in the world,” he said. “Our levees run from Cairo, Illinois, to south of New Orleans, Louisiana. Our revetment program keeps the river in its place preventing the river from directly striking our levees. A levee failure in southeast Missouri would devastate much of the Missouri Bootheel as well as eastern Arkansas all the way to Helena -- that’s 90 miles.” 

The commander said Memphis District levees have prevented over $1.5 trillion in damages over the decades and that for every dollar the U.S. taxpayer has invested in these levees, the country has received a return of $95. 

“We all need to think about what an amazing investment that is,” he added. “If you give me a dollar, I will give you $95 in return. The revetment program plays a vital role in maintaining this phenomenal system we call the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project.”

The Memphis District is slated to work 28 sites along 1,000 miles of the Mississippi River this year with plans to clear 70,000 feet of bank. The bank grading unit is scheduled to move over 820,000 cubic yards of material to ready the channel banks for articulated concrete mattress, which will be completed in unison with the Vicksburg District.

“We are going to lay 300,000 concrete squares along the river banks,” Col. Miller continued. “None of this is possible without the outstanding work each and every one of you (Ensley Workers) do to keep the vessels afloat, dredges dredging, and the bank grading unit moving.”

The commander concluded by thanking several men and women for their exceptional work, especially considering the challenges presented by COVID-19.