Members of the Regional Channel Improvement (RCI) Team met in New Orleans, Louisiana, for their annual Mississippi River Channel Improvement meeting, Feb. 7 – 8, 2023 to discuss new channel improvement projects and other current channel improvement issues.
Engineering and Construction Department professionals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), USACE Memphis, Vicksburg, and New Orleans District operations leaders, project managers, and regional team members, USACE St. Louis District representatives, and several environmental partners from various parts of the region, all come together to form what is known as the Regional Channel Improvement Team.
And according to Regional Channel Improvement Coordinator Andrew Smothers, their mission is centered on navigation, flood risk management, and environmental stewardship.
“We keep the river open for traffic (navigation), keep the side channel intact to protect the top (levee) (flood risk management), and try to do everything in tune with mother nature (environmental stewardship),” Smothers said.
With critical priorities and funding allocations changing every year, the team meets twice annually, with their preliminary “Technical” meeting in November and the action meeting in February.
The November “Technical” meeting objective is to determine regional revetment and dike project priorities. The team then meets again a little more than two months later for the Engineer Action (E-Action) Meeting every February.
According to Smothers, the purpose of the E-Action meeting is to match the prioritized projects from the November meeting while also considering February’s budgetary allocations, right-of-way availability, and other constructability issues.
E-Action meeting attendees typically spend the first of the two to three-day event looking over the prior revetment season, regional processes and practices, environmental updates, dredging operations, dike modeling, and the previous Channel Improvement Value Engineering Study.
The second meeting-day focused on the future and includes RCI members providing the rest of the team with updates in the following Channel Improvement Program categories: regional priorities, program costs, new plant progression, and the Regional Channel Improvement Business Case.
"These steps are completed to determine the sinking and rock (dike) work schedule for the upcoming season," Smothers said. "The team prioritizes approximately 30 revetment sites and five to six dike project areas annually, with revetment work including clearing and snagging, bank grading, and mat sinking unit operations."
Congratulations to the team for the productive meetings, successful scheduling, and managing such a vital piece of the Mississippi River and Tributaries project.