A meeting was held July 25 to inform Natchitoches’ officials, port and levee districts of a scheduled visit from the Mississippi River Commission (MRC) on Aug. 15.
The trip through the JBJ Waterway is an opportunity to show the MRC the successes located in the areas along the waterway, so they have a better perspective of the Red River and its need for future funding. They will travel from the Caddo-Bossier Port on the Motor Vessel MISSISSIPPI, the largest push boat on the Mississippi River, which is five stories tall. They will visit the Caddo-Bossier area before traveling to Natchitoches to tour the Port, Grand Core Visitor Center and the new Grand Ecore Recreational Area.
The MRC was established by an Act of Congress on June 28, 1879 and the commissioners are Presidential appointees. Congress charged the MRC with the mission to develop plans to improve the condition of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, foster navigation, promote commerce and prevent destructive floods. The Commission is extremely influential with the Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Congress.
Col. Michael Derosier, Commander of the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway – Vicksburg District, presented information on the many benefits realized from the major civil works project in the areas of transportation, recreation, industry, agriculture, municipal, economic development and eco-system development.
Around 70,268 commercial tons of cargo passed through Natchitoches Parish via the Red River in 2014, sustaining around 291 jobs. Cargo includes aggregate, forest product and asphalt. Around $11.4 million is needed annually to maintain routine operations and maintenance, dredging, lock operation and recreation. Over 1.7 million visitors annually take advantage of the facilities offered by the 22 recreation areas in eight parishes along the waterway.
In Natchitoches, the Grand Ecore Visitor Center is located on a bluff overlooking the Red River. The Cane River National Heritage Area operates it, offering educational and cultural programming to the community.
But there’s always work to be done. Repairs to be made include stone, equipment, lock replacement, tainted gates, dike markers, debris removal and more.
An Open House, which is open to the public, will be held onboard the M/V MISSISSIPPI Aug. 16 from 9-11 am as the trip ends at the Port of Alexandria with a visit to CLECO.