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Mat Sinking Unit completes revetment season

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District’s Mat Sinking Unit completed its 2020 revetment season on March 4.

The Mat Sinking Unit placed approximately 266,000 squares of articulated concrete, also known as revetment, along the Mississippi River before its return to the Vicksburg Harbor on March 6 after 230 days of deployment, the second-longest deployment in 25 years. Combined, the mats would cover roughly 600 acres. In contrast, more than 167,000 squares were placed during last year’s season before early termination due to high water conditions. Revetment prevents riverbank erosion, protects flood control structures and provides reliable waterways for commercial navigation.

COVID-19 precautions presented significant operational changes this season. District leadership implemented swift safety measures for the nearly 300 crew members, including wearing personal protective equipment, physical distancing, reduced occupancy, and plexiglass fixtures in common areas, and disinfecting high-contact surfaces.

A continuous mask mandate was in place when physical distancing could not be achieved, and frequent rapid COVID-19 tests were provided to mitigate virus exposure. The tour of duty was increased from 12 days on the vessel to 25 days with eligibility for three days off at the end of each cycle, which limited crew members’ contact with non-USACE personnel throughout the season.

Crew members were also provided with designated transportation to and from work sites, which eliminated possible exposure from using numerous personal vehicles.

“We are incredibly proud of our crew for completing a phenomenal season despite unprecedented circumstances,” USACE Vicksburg District Commander Col. Robert Hilliard said. “Their months of dedication exemplify the district’s unwavering commitment to this vital mission and its ability to adapt to fluid situations.”

The 2020 revetment season began with a virtual “Blessing of the Fleet” ceremony on July 21.