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Dike restoration project minimizes excessive dredging, supports river

Posted on June 19, 2023

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Memphis District maintains a safe and dependable navigation channel for 355 miles of the Mississippi River. It delivers on this charge by constructing dikes and other river training structures, performing revetment and dredging operations, and executing several other navigation and flood risk management projects.

The Memphis District completes dozens of projects annually to ensure a safe and reliable waterway, most recently partnering with Commercial Towing Interests, represented by the Lower Mississippi River Committee (LOMRC), to carry out a dike construction and restoration project in New Madrid, Missouri.

“In recent years and during periods of low water conditions, towboat pilots have raised concerns regarding this area of the river, as well as the need for dike work,” Project Manager Zach Cook said. “This part of the river has also required frequent dredging over the past few years. Restoring and raising the existing dikes should help lessen that demand as dikes help constrict the waterway during mid-bank to low water stages and in turn, create a more efficient channel.”

The project, named Donaldson Point Dikes, began construction in late March this year, and had a completion date of May 11.

Project work centered on elevating and restoring four of the site’s existing dikes using an approximate 316,000 tons of Graded Stone A. Along with restoring and raising the dikes, contractor Luhr Bros., Inc., from Columbia, Illinois, also constructed and repaired environmental notches for habitat diversity.

“Dike notches are areas within the length of the structure typically located several hundred feet from the top of the riverbank where the elevation of the dike is lower than the surrounding elevation; this allows for a controlled flow through the structure at lower river stages,” Cook explained. “The river can then move in and out between the notches to facilitate additional river habitats for birds, fish, and invertebrates inhabiting the river.”

Features like these directly support the Corps’ environmental operating principles and the initiative to sustain and foster the river’s ecosystem. In addition to the positive impact on the environment, the results of the work done were immediately noticeable to those navigating the waterway.

Following project completion, Operations Division Hydrographic Survey Technician Danny Hunt surveyed the area for project impact, reporting, “Winchester Towhead reach is the best I’ve seen in years.”

Project Manager Zach Cook noted that an additional project, Below Island 9 Dikes, completed across the river in 2022, also contributed to the improved conditions in this historically problematic area of the river.

Project funding in the total of $12,152,480 came from the Disaster Relief Supplemental Act of 2022 (DRSAA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funds allocated by Congress earlier this year.

For more information related to the USACE and Memphis District programs, including news covering district projects, revetment operations, dike construction, the dredging mission, and much more, please visit the MVM website at


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