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Inner Harbor Navigation Canal (IHNC) Lock Replacement

Official Project Name
Inner Harbor Navigation Canal (Industrial Canal) Lock Replacement Project

The Industrial Canal runs through a highly urbanized area within the New Orleans city limits. It joins Lake Pontchartrain to the north with the Mississippi River to the south. The canal joins Lake Ponchartrain to the north and its southern ends terminates at the IHNC Lock at the Mississippi River.

Inland Navigation: The current lock, built in 1921 but not opened until 1923, is too small to accommodate modern day vessels. The planned replacement lock could provide a nearly three-fold increase in lock chamber capacity easing transport through this high-traffic waterway. The current lock is 75 feet wide by 640 feet long and 31.5 feet deep.


A U.S. District Judge has ordered that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cease all work on the Industrial Canal Lock Replacement Project, including mitigation planning, until the Corps completes a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the project. The Corps in doing a General Reevaluation Report.

Replacement of the lock was originally authorized in the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1956, but many years of planning and community involvement were required before Congress authorized construction in 1998 When Public Law 84-255 took effect. Planning for the new lock was very controversial with earlier design alternatives involving significant loss of wetlands in St. Bernard Parish or major disruptions to the densely urbanized areas adjoining the existing lock in New Orleans.

Previous Work

Congress approved the project as a “Construction New-Start” in fiscal year 1999. The real estate was purchased from the Port of New Orleans for $16.8 million. The final act of sale took place Dec. 19, 2002. A contract for the design of the lock and related features was awarded to URS Corp. in May 2002. Work on the contract began in February 2003. On July 30, 2005, the Corps began to collect soil, sediment, and water samples in the canal to ensure the proper management of material that will be dredged later in the lock project.

Benefit to the Community & Project Features

Benefit to the Community
Corps projects often contain mitigation components to compensate for environmental impact. For example, if a project area is dredged and vegetation is lost, the dredged material might be used to promote nearby marsh creation. The Industrial Canal lock replacement project includes a major mitigation feature so innovative that it was named The American Planning Association’s "Outstanding Non-Military Federal Planning Project" of the year in 2001. 

The completion of the Industrial Canal Lock in 1923 resulted in the creation of jobs in the shipping industry that employed significant numbers of area residents. When shipping became containerized near the end of the 20th century, there were negative economic impacts on the neighborhoods near the canal due to declining demand for labor. As plans emerged for a replacement lock, area residents raised concerns about the potential for a 12-year construction project to further hinder investment in the community. In response, Congress specifically authorized $37 million for a Community Impact Mitigation Plan as part of the lock replacement project. In 1999, the Corps awarded a multi-year contract to a team of consultants headed by GCR & Associates, Inc., a small New Orleans business, to establish a community-based committee to advise the Corps on construction-related issues of concern to area residents. Committee meetings began in early March 2000 and soon produced a community needs assessment and a proposed mitigation plan. The Committee determined that mitigation projects should address job training, housing improvements, clean up of vacant lots, and upgrades to existing playgrounds among other improvements.

The work of the committee has also resulted in modifications to project plans that will even further reduce the impact of new lock construction. For example, specific routes will be designated for construction vehicles to minimize traffic congestion during construction. There will be public access to new open space created by the new lock, and landscaping features will be introduced to soften visual impacts of the construction. These modifications will not be done at the expense of the mitigation program. Rather, these improvements are the result of open communication between the community and the Corps about minimizing impact. 

The recommended plan is for a deep-draft lock, 110 feet wide by 1,200 feet long by 36 feet of draft.


River and Harbor Act of 1956 (original authorization), and the Water Resources Development Acts (WRDA) of 1986 (re-authorizing the project and established cost sharing requirements) and 1996 (authorizing the Community Impact Mitigation Plan).



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