VOL. 132 | NO. 64 | Thursday, March 30, 2017
Motor Vessel Mississippi Returns to Memphis Riverfront
By Bill Dries
The largest diesel towboat on the Mississippi River has been known to move 16 to 17 barges at one time – although it has done 33.
The motor vessel “Mississippi” does plenty of other heavy lifting including helping put in place the concrete mats that stabilize banks along the river.
But at Beale Street Landing Tuesday, March 28, the Mississippi was all show on a calm if rising river.
An Army Corps of Engineers crew spent most of the day showing the public around the 241-foot long, 2,823-ton towboat that is a passenger boat for a crew of 34 as well as a work boat.
When the Mississippi isn’t working, its home port is McKellar Lake, south of the Memphis riverfront.
The boat is on one of its twice-a-year inspection trips and was bound up river from Memphis after the public tours. It’s back at Beale Street Landing Tuesday, April 4, for a public hearing by the Mississippi River Commission when they explain the mission of the commission and the Corps as well as hear from the public.
“We hear from them about what we ought to be doing, how we are doing our job, bringing new ideas and initiatives to the Mississippi River Commission for them to take into consideration,” said Jim Pogue, chief of the public affairs office for the Corps’ Memphis division. “It’s democracy in its purest form. It’s an open, free-flow conversation.”
The hearings in Memphis usually involve those in the logistics and transportation industry and include calls for continued dredging of commercial channels on the river. There are also usually discussions about the upkeep of levee systems – federal and local.
The commission gives direction and advice to the federal government, including the Corps, about direction and policy when it comes to management of the Mississippi River.
The boat’s purpose is “supporting our river stabilization program,” Pogue said.
“Putting the concrete mattress on the banks to stabilize the banks,” he said, is one of the Mississippi’s main purposes. “That serves a dual purpose to make sure the navigation channel stays where we want it to and also provides flood protection. If the bank is not protected it could conceivably erode the levees.”
On a sunny day on the riverfront, that work was being explained by engineers and specialists, always with a reminder to watch your step walking through the hatch doorways.
“This is to see your tax dollars at work and you learn a little bit about what we do on a day-to-day basis,” Pogue said.
Mixed in with technical explanations of sand boils and engineering principles were stories about the most recent flooding – in this case the 2011 Mississippi River flooding where the river at Memphis rose to its highest level since the all-time record 1937 river flooding.
A map of levees above Memphis showed green dots marking levees in need of repair as a result of the high water six years ago.