MRC visits JBJ Waterway, learns about its successes and challenges

MRC Visit 1 2017 (3)


The Mississippi River Commission (MRC) visited Natchitoches Aug. 15 on its annual low-water inspection trip on the Mississippi River Aug. 7-18. Commission members met with local partners, stakeholders and residents to hear their concerns, ideas and issues. The trip was made on the 5-story MV Mississippi, the largest push boat on the Mississippi.

Parish President Rick Nowlin, Natchitoches Mayor Lee Posey, Tourist Office Director Arlene Gould attended the Aug. 15 meeting held at the new Grand Core RV Park. Representatives from the Natchitoches Parish Port and the Red River Waterway Commission were also in attendance. Beforehand, commissioners toured the Natchitoches Parish Port and the Grand Ecore Visitors Center.

“We’re all in this together,” said Charles Camillo, MRC Executive Director. This visit from the MRC was a momentous occasion as it was the first time the commission chose to tour the Red River since it began reviewing and inspecting the watersheds along the Mississippi River in 1997. These reviews aid the MRC in its attempt to garner broad support for a working 200-year vision: an intergenerational commitment for the world’s largest naturally navigable watershed, America’s watershed.

The MRC, established in 1879, is composed of seven members, each nominated by the President of the United States and vetted by the Senate. Three of the organization’s members are officers of the Corps of Engineers; one is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and three are civilians (two of whom are civil engineers).

General duties of the MRC include recommending policy and work programs, studying and reporting on the necessity for modifications or additions to flood control and navigation projects and conducting semi-annual inspection trips. Public meetings held during the trips maintain a dialogue between the watershed interests, the public and the Corps.

“The MRC has influence with the administration in Congress, so this is an opportunity to tell the successes of the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway (which is part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District),” said Colin Brown, Executive Director for the Red River Waterway Commission. “It’s also an opportunity to show them the challenges we have, which include the need for consistent dredging funds, the need for 24/7: 365 operation of the locks and dams, and the need for a 12-foot channel on the waterway.”

The authority of the MRC extends the entire length of the Mississippi River from its headquarters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to Head of Passes in Louisiana, where the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Since 1879, the MRC has developed and matured plans for the general improvement of the Mississippi River from the Head of Passes to the Headwaters. The MRC brings critical engineering representation to the drainage basin, which impacts 41 percent of the U.S., including 1.25 million square miles, over 250 tributaries, 31 states and two Canadian provinces.