The word “infrastructure” is wonky and too broad, but it helpfully includes some things that most of us would not think of as in the same category of roads and bridges.
One of them is the Mississippi River.
The river doesn’t have yellow stripes down the middle, but yes, it is a huge piece of infrastructure that carries the products of America down to metropolitan New Orleans and then across the world. It’s the reason Thomas Jefferson wanted New Orleans so badly in 1803 that he bought all of Louisiana and more to get it.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commitment to dredging the river to 50 feet in depth is a huge national investment in protecting the American economy, not to mention Louisiana’s ports and other traditional forms of infrastructure.
Leading a number of happy officials applauding the Corps commitment was Jefferson Parish’s Steve Scalise, the minority whip in the U.S. House.
"The Mississippi River Basin has an unprecedented impact on our national economy, global competitiveness, and American job creation,” Scalise said. “Modernizing our infrastructure and deepening the river to 50 feet will help strengthen Louisiana’s dominance in domestic and international commerce.”
The dredging will generate massive amounts of mud that can also be used in coastal preservation work.
The Corps’ commitments don’t stop with the river channels.
Some of the $160 million in total projects include expansion of the multimodal facility at the Port of South Louisiana, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Those kind of connections are important to keep Louisiana's connections between the river and railways working for the economy. Our railroad tracks are important parts of our infrastructure as well.
More Corps work will also be done for the Johnston Waterway on the Red River, part of the larger Mississippi delta.
There has been some criticism of President Donald Trump in the first term, because he made extravagant promises of vast new spending on American infrastructure during the 2016 presidential campaign. Most of those promises have not materialized, even though there is considerable bipartisan support for new job-creating investments on everything from roads to bridges to rails and airports.
All of these do need more investment. Nevertheless, water projects are part of the national investment in economic development; those projects are obviously particularly valuable for Louisiana. We commend the president, our delegation in House and Senate, state government and the Corps for taking practical steps to ensure that trade can flow down America’s greatest and muddiest pathway of them all.