VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) — Dredging near the Port of Vicksburg over the past five years should keep the inland port open even as Mississippi River levels fall.

Warren County Port Commission executive director Wayne Mansfield tells the Vicksburg Post ( that about $4 million in work completed in 2008 to widen the Yazoo Diversion Canal has put the local port ahead of the curve for the river's fall.

The dredging deepened the channel by 50 to 100 feet from its junction with the river and the port entrance.

"It has helped out tremendously from a navigation standpoint," Mansfield said. "I don't anticipate the port closing."

The river was 4.89 feet on the Vicksburg gauge Tuesday, up four one-hundredths of a foot. A year ago, it was 36.92 feet.

Stages are to rise slightly, to 5.5 feet, by next week, then sink to 3.9 feet by July 25, according to the National Weather Service River Forecast Center.

Last year's flood reached a crest of 57.1 feet in Vicksburg, 14.1 feet above flood stage and nine-tenths of a foot higher than the 1927 flood.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Vicksburg District has announced it will spend $6.84 million to deepen six shallow draft ports at Lake Providence and Madison Parish in Louisiana; Yellow Bend in Arkansas; and Rosedale, Greenville and Vicksburg in Mississippi by Sept. 30.

The funds were approved by Congress to repair and restore the Mississippi River and tributaries following last spring's river flood.

Larger-scale dredging by the Dredge Butcher, operated by Pine Bluff Sand and Gravel Company, continued this week on the two Louisiana ports. Vicksburg is last on the list, expected to be complete by the project's September end date.

Inland Dredging Company will park vessels in the harbor over the next six months as part of the overall effort. A contract worth $400 a month over the period was ratified Monday by the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

Low-water conditions and the flow of the emergency money will increase the chance ports could close due to low water levels, the Corps said in a news release.

"The (Vicksburg) District continually works with our partners and stakeholders to monitor water levels and provide a navigable port channel for normal barge traffic," it said. "Due to these low-water levels, the Corps has changed the current dredging schedule in order to maintain navigation as long as possible."

Federal funding for dredging shallow draft ports is $157,000 for fiscal 2013, which will fund limited surveying, the Corps' release said.

"Although the district cannot guarantee the ports will remain navigable with a 9-foot channel, we will attempt to meet the needs of the region within the constraints of our budget this year and in the future," the release said.


Information from: The Vicksburg Post,