Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO): Issues for Congress Page: 4 of 14
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Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO):
Issues for Congress
MRGO Primer and Recent Congressional Action
The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO or Outlet, also known as Mr. Go)
is a 76-mile deep-draft navigational channel between the Port of New Orleans and
the Gulf of Mexico. Congress authorized the MRGO in 1956 (P.L. 84-455), and the
Corps completed construction in 1965. The Outlet provides a shorter deep-draft
alternative to access interior parts of the Port of New Orleans, compared to deep-draft
access via the Mississippi River.
Since its construction, groups have pressured the federal government to close
the MRGO because of its purported negative effects on local wetlands. Interest in
whether, and how, to decommission the MRGO increased in the aftermath of
Hurricane Katrina. Since Hurricane Katrina, there has been less opposition to those
discussing deauthorizing deep-draft navigation on part of the MRGO; currently,
much of the debate has shifted to deciding if the channel should be used for shallow-
draft navigation or completely decommissioned for navigation.
Some stakeholders, most notably environmental groups, support complete
closure of the Outlet and restoration of the area; they believe that the Outlet
contributes to wetlands loss and eases the transport of waters from the Gulf to New
Orleans during hurricanes. Navigation interests argue that discussions of closing the
MRGO need to consider how to provide deep-draft access to the Port of New Orleans
and the economic impact of MRGO deauthorization.
MRGO Location and Characteristics. The MRGO was commissioned as
a 500-foot minimum width channel with a low tide depth of 36 feet. Construction of
the channel involved the removal of 311 million cubic yards of soil and marshlands,
an amount larger than that dredged in the construction of the Panama Canal. Since
construction, the MRGO has eroded in places to an expanded width of 2,000 feet.
Before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Corps maintained the authorized channel depth
through dredging activities using annual federal appropriations to the Corps.
The MRGO is 40 miles shorter than the route from New Orleans to the Gulf via
the Mississippi River. The Outlet is composed of two segments as shown in Figure
1. Reach 1 is a 6-mile east-west channel in New Orleans; Reach 2 is a 70-mile
northwest to southeast channel from Reach 1 to the Gulf of Mexico. MRGO Reach
1 also serves as a route for shallow-draft navigation vessels on the Gulf Intercoastal
Waterway (GIWW). At its westernmost end, Reach 1 intersects with the Inner
While some deep-draft port facilities are located on the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal and
the MRGO itself, other facilities are located on the lower Mississippi River.
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Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO): Issues for Congress, report, August 4, 2006; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc806614/m1/4/: accessed February 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.