The US Army Corps of Engineers has signed its Final Economic Justification Report supporting the deepening of Mississippi River Ship Channel from the current 45ft to a depth of 50ft, which is the same depth of the expanded Panama Canal.

US Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works director James Dalton, who signed the report, was quoted by as saying that the channel deepening project is expected to bring average annual benefits of $127.5m to the US economy, compared to average annual expenditures of $17.7m.

In the Director’s Report, Dalton has also recommended approval of funding for the project, which is planned to be developed with an investment of $237.7m.

As per the cost-sharing provisions of Section 101 of the US Water Resources Development Act, the federal and non-federal shares in the project are $118.1m and around $39.4m, respectively.

In its report, the Corps has identified the benefit-to-cost ratio of the project at 7.2 to one.

“This project will help to make our world-renowned port system even more competitive.”

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said: “One in five jobs in Louisiana is tied to our ports and this project will help to make our world-renowned port system even more competitive, while creating opportunities for manufacturers, growers and producers who rely on our ports up and down the entire Mississippi River.”

The Mississippi River Ship Channel deepening project is designed to offer a draft of 50ft from the Gulf of Mexico upriver 256 miles to the Port of Greater Baton Rouge in Louisiana.

Material dredged from 30 miles of the project near the Mouth of the Mississippi River are planned to be used to develop around 1,462 acres of new marsh habitat.

The Lower Mississippi River currently hosts four of the US’ top 15 ports in terms of annual tonnage, facilitating the movement of more than 500 million tonnes of cargo, which comprises 60% of the country’s grain and is connected to 14,500 miles of inland navigable waterways.