On Dec. 7, 2022, Memphis District Commander Col. Brian Sawser made the trip down to St. Francisville, Louisiana, to visit the Memphis District Revetment Team at their current project site. The commander spent the day getting a firsthand look at what this talented crew does on a daily basis, getting a better understanding of exactly just how important this team is to executing the Memphis District mission.
As is true with everyone who performs such vital work as is done within the Operations Division, Col. Sawser expressed his sincerest gratitude to every member of this team and coined several of them for their exceptional performance. Days like these and thanking our employees are extremely important, as people are our most vital asset.
Without them, this district would not and could not execute its mission. It’s people like those on this team who make the Memphis District the best in the world – for that, we thank you, so very much, for everything you do.
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. This stabilizes the riverbank and maintains proper navigation channel alignment. This operation is normally done from mid-July through mid-November (during low water) and involves personnel and equipment from Cairo, Illinois, to below New Orleans, Louisiana, on the Mississippi River and along the Atchafalaya River. The Memphis District provides for clearing of the banks, grading of the banks, ACM loading from the mat casting fields, and a portion of motor vessel towing of the barges is ACM. The Vicksburg District places the ACM and private contractors provide the stone placement, which is called "upper bank paving.“
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been completing revetment operations since the 1800s but started using the current method of revetment in the 1940s. When asked how long it will take to complete construction on the river system, the answer might surprise some people, but that’s because Project Manager Andrew Smothers is looking more into the future than he is short term. Revetment is just one piece of the giant puzzle in keeping the Mississippi River open for business.
“The Mississippi River and Tributaries construction project is 95 percent complete, but it will take at least 20 more years to complete,” Smothers said. “After that, we will still perform regular maintenance.”
The Bank Grading Unit’s inner unit is the Clearing and Snagging unit and it’s the first field activity of revetment operations. It usually begins work in early July, clearing the riverbanks of trees and debris to make way for the Bank Graders and Articulated Concrete Mattress Sinking Unit (Vicksburg District). The work is accomplished with the use of a barge mounted dragline and bulldozers.
Where grading is required, the bank grading party moves in next (about two weeks later) to prepare the riverbank to the design grade and elevation to accommodate the ACM and upper bank paving. The equipment used is a vintage 1949 barge mounted Bucyrus-Erie dragline with a 183-foot boom and a 15 cubic yard bucket. Additional earthmoving capacity is provided by a compliment of bulldozers. Bedding material (crushed stone) is also placed by this party using a barge mounted dragline with a 100-foot boom with a clamshell bucket. All equipment is moved by towboats up and down the river to the appropriate locations for work.
The Revetment Team is essential, to say the least. Without it, keeping the Mississippi River open and commerce alive and well wouldn’t be possible.