VICKSBURG, Miss. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Vicksburg District held a “Blessing of the Fleet” ceremony July 21 to commemorate the Mat Sinking Unit’s deployment and the official start of revetment season.
The ceremony was conducted virtually due to concerns related to COVID-19 and included blessings from USACE Chaplain Col. Bradford Baumann and Rev. Sam Godfrey of Christ Episcopal Church in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The ceremony also included remarks from USACE Vicksburg District Commander Col. Robert Hilliard.
“As the Mat Sinking Unit embarks on another challenging yet vital season of fortifying the banks of the Mississippi River, safety remains our top priority,” said Hilliard. “We have taken measures to reduce risk to our employees and the community that will allow us to execute this important mission both safely and effectively.”
Implemented safety measures to reduce risk related to COVID-19 include using personal protective equipment, physical distancing and disinfecting high-contact surfaces. USACE Vicksburg District leadership will continue to monitor conditions and adjust operations if necessary.
The unit departed the Vicksburg Harbor following the ceremony and traveled to Little Cypress near Tiptonville, Tennessee, where the unit began work July 27.
The Mat Sinking Unit places hundreds of thousands of articulated concrete squares, also known as revetment, along the Mississippi River to protect flood control works, prevent riverbank erosion and provide navigable waterways for commercial transportation. The Mississippi River and Tributaries Channel Improvement Program, of which the unit is a part, stretches approximately 1,000 river miles from Cairo, Illinois, to the Gulf of Mexico.
District technical experts anticipate that the unit will lay approximately 251,000 squares of revetment this season. During last year’s revetment season, which was terminated in January due to high river stages, the unit placed more than 167,000 squares.
Unparalleled across the world, the Mat Sinking Unit is a feat of skilled labor and technological innovation. A mat sinking barge, a mat supply barge, quarter barges, spar barges, gantry cranes, bulldozers and motor vessels are among the equipment used by the unit to help maintain the Mississippi River’s stabilization and navigation. During revetment season, the unit acts as a floating city, providing lodging and dining for its nearly 300 crew members. The unit’s dedicated crew typically works 10-hour shifts and 12-consecutive-day work periods to execute the mission.
The USACE Vicksburg District is engineering solutions to the nation’s toughest challenges. The Vicksburg District encompasses a 68,000-square-mile area across portions of Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana that holds seven major river basins and incorporates approximately 460 miles of mainline Mississippi River levees. The district is engaged in hundreds of projects and employs approximately 1,100 personnel.