U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA)

Lower Mississippi River SmartPort & Resilience Center


The Challenge

With grants from The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency, the State of Louisiana and other partners, The Water Institute of the Gulf will develop a Lower Mississippi River SmartPort & Resilience Center (SmartPort).

Through the development of a decision support tool to forecast shoaling at port facilities along the Mississippi River, SmartPort will improve port operations and benefit a variety of stakeholders who need to understand how sediment builds up in the Mississippi River. This Real-Time Shoaling Forecast Tool will be coupled with a suite of weather, river, and road traffic analytics to improve efficiency and help the region’s ports become more resilient in the face of future natural disasters and economic shocks.

The Approach

Along with these advanced analytics, customized Resilience Dashboards will be created and maintained for the Ports of Lake Providence, Madison, Vidalia, Baton Rouge, South Louisiana, New Orleans, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines. These dynamic tools will assist in tracking progress and adaptively managing port resilience. Along with the digital platform, this $3 million investment will culminate in a new SmartPort facility to be housed on The Water Campus in Baton Rouge. The facility will serve as a specialized emergency operation center for ports when needed and a place for the exchange of information during non-emergency times.

The Institute worked closely with the Port of New Orleans, IBM, and Crescent Towing in developing tools that successfully harvested and validated depth data to inform port dredging operations. Through SmartPort, the Institute will be able to scale this successful pilot project along the Lower Mississippi River from North Louisiana to the Gulf of Mexico.

In addition to supporting Louisiana’s port and navigation sectors, the data collected from the fleet of tugs, barges and other working Mississippi River vessels will be shared with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) to benefit the coastal program. Mike Miner, Ph.D., the Institute’s Director of Applied Geosciences, serves as the Principal Investigator for the Real-Time Shoaling Forecast tool, and Scott Hemmerling, Ph.D. Director of Human Dimensions, will lead the development of customized and interactive Resilience Strategies for the eight ports.