The economic impact of reduced dredging of the Mississippi River could be far-reaching, according to a report by Economist Tim Ryan called “The Economic Impact of Reduced Mississippi River Dredging,” which was presented a press conference hosted by the Big River Coalition at the Port of New Orleans on Jan. 10.

The report showed that if dredging funding shortages lead to a reduction in draft to 38 feet, the U.S. economy would suffer a loss of up to $7.2 billion in direct spending.

Currently, the Mississippi River draft is reduced to 44 feet, one foot less than the draft authorized by Congress. Ryan has calculated that operating the river at that level for a year would lead to a loss of $773 million in direct spending and a $1.4 billion loss in total spending.

Traditionally the river has been dredged to allow cargo ships with drafts up to 45 feet to pass safely in and out. Cruise ships, however, will not be affected as they typically have drafts in the range of 25 to 28 feet, up to 30 feet for the Oasis and Allure of the Seas and 33 feet for the Queen Mary 2.