The Mississippi River is the eighth largest river system in the world by discharge and drains over 40% of the contiguous US. The large drainage area and high discharge supplies the northern Gulf of Mexico with the seventh highest sediment load in the world. The Mississippi River and its tributaries provide critical navigation access from the heartland to international markets through Louisiana's ports.
At the foot of the Mississippi’s 19,000-mile river system lie the six deep-water ports of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, South Louisiana, Plaquemines Parish and St. Bernard. These ports handle more than 450 million tons of cargo annually — much of it in exports from industry and agriculture throughout the nation. Continued wetlands loss will ultimately expose several of these ports to open water, rendering them vulnerable to severe damage from hurricanes and tropical storms. Losing these ports would paralyze not only Louisiana but also the rest of the nation.
Louisiana ranks first in the nation in total shipping tonnage, handling approximately 20% of the nation's waterborne commerce through its deep-draft ports. The ports between Baton Rouge and New Orleans are the largest by tonnage carried in the world and serve the entire eastern part of the country.
Louisiana's barrier islands and wetlands protect navigation channels, anchorages and ports from storm damage. Without the protection of our rapidly eroding coastal wetlands and barrier islands, 155 miles of waterways will be exposed to open water in the next 50 years and billions of taxpayer dollars will have to be spent on increased dredging and maintenance costs.
MISSISSIPPI RIVER AND TRIBUTARIES
The Mississippi River and its tributaries provide critical navigation access from the heartland to international markets through Louisiana's ports.