Gulf Restoration Network

United for a Healthy Gulf

Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO)


After 50 years of destroying critical coastal wetlands and threatening communities of Southeast Louisiana, the writing is finally on the wall for the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet.  Due to the efforts of the “Mr. Go Must Go” Coalition, including the GRN, Louisiana’s senators spearheaded an amendment to force the Corps to de-authorize the MRGO to deep-draft vessels and to develop a plan for the future of the MRGO, including plans to restore the coastal wetlands and marshes destroyed by the channel.


Background - Closing A Hurricane Highway

Hurricane Katrina devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents. But the storm did not act alone. The destruction was intensified by a number of failed projects developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), including the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO).  The MRGO is an obscure seldom-used navigation channel built as a shortcut linking the Gulf of Mexico to the Port of New Orleans

Yet, the MRGO also became a “Hurricane Highway” sending a 25-foot high wall of water speeding into New Orleans, destroying the levees in its path and overwhelming St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward.  The MRGO also destroyed well over 20,000 acres of coast wetlands that could have reduced Katrina’s storm surge and spared lives.

For years, local advocates and hurricane experts had pleaded with the Corps to close this little used and destructive navigation channel, arguing that the MRGO would amplify and concentrate storm surges into the city. Tragically, these calls were ignored, and the Corps continued to pour tens of millions of dollars into keeping the MRGO open, forcing federal taxpayers to subsidize travel on the MRGO at a cost of $12,600 per vessel per day. In just the past 20 years, taxpayers have spent more than $320 million to maintain the MRGO.


MRGO Facts At-A-Glance

  • Completed in 1965
  • Original 650 feet wide x 76 miles long
  • Now 2,000 feet wide x 76 miles long
  • 290 million cubic yards of sand dredged to build the channel, 60 million cubic yards more than dredged to build the Panama Canal.
  • Original cost was $92 Million
  • Cost to maintain through 2006 approximately
  • $906 Million (per Closing the MRGO
  • Environmental and Economic Considerations,
  • LSU Ag Center, LA Sea Grant)

MRGO Closure Plan Facts

Offered by Senators Vitter (R-LA), Landrieu (D-LA), Inhofe (R-OK) and Jeffords (I-VT), the MRGO closure plan is part of an amendment to the supplemental appropriations bill.  The Corps is provided $3.5 million to develop a plan for closure of the MRGO in six months.

The MRGO closure plan will:

  • De-authorize deep draft navigation at a minimum and will recommend if any navigation should be supported on MRGO;
  • Provide measures for protection from hurricanes and storms;
  • Prevent salt water intrusion;
  • Re-establish the storm buffering properties and ecological integrity of wetlands lost due to construction and operation of MRGO;
  • Complement overall restoration of coastal Louisiana.

A final plan will be submitted for closure funding by December 2007.
MRGO to be a Dump? Don’t go there DEQ and the Corps


Related Issues

200 Acres of Wetlands Adjacent to MRGO Threatened by Debris

July 14, 2006 - As the Corps of Engineers puts together a plan for the closure of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO), community and environmental groups which advocated for the Congressional demand for that plan through  are warning the public about a new threat – a proposed landfill on the banks of the MRGO.

This proposal defies common sense.  The Corps is supposed to be creating a plan to restore the wetlands that the MRGO destroyed, but now they want to turn 200 acres of wetlands along the channel into a landfill.

Proposed by Newport Environmental Services, the class 3 construction and demolition debris landfill is currently seeking a permit from both the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the Corps of Engineers. One of an ever-growing slate of new landfills proposed to deal with the impacts of Katrina, this proposal may be the most audacious.


Related Links

Please visit the coalition website