Drainage project drawings near completion

Published 12:01am Thursday, October 4, 2012

NATCHEZ — Engineering drawings for the next phase of the North Natchez Drainage Project are nearly complete, and City Engineer David Gardner said he hopes construction is under way by March 2013.

Gardner originally wanted the phase II-B project to be completed by the end of the year, but he said relocating utility lines and purchasing the rights-of-way for property for the project took much longer than he expected.

Atmos Energy is the last of the companies relocating lines in preparation for the project, Gardner said.

The city will send the engineering drawings to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for approval on Oct. 15. During the review, Gardner said, Atmos should finish its work.

Once the USACE approves the plans and the city receives letters of concurrence from the appropriate agencies, Gardner said the city should be ready to advertise for a contractor for the project possibly in November.

Since the weather in January and February is not optimal for construction, Gardner said the start of construction will more than likely be delayed until March.

Work for phases I and II-A of the project replaced underground drainage pipes and equipment on Canal Street to Madison Street to Wall Street and finally to Oak Street. Phase II-B will entail drainage work for Buckner’s Alley, such as the field behind the Natchez Children’s Home and the areas going toward Elm Street.

Phase II-C, the last phase of the project, will include Maple and Walworth streets.

The $3 million phase II-B is being funded through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Environmental Infrastructure and Resource Protection and Development Program, also known as Section 592, and requires a 25-percent cost share match from the city.

A $250,000 grant the city received in January from the Mississippi Disaster Recovery Fund specifically for Hurricane Gustav relief and $450,000 currently in the bank for the project will fund the city’s cost-match.

Gardner said the total cost for the North Natchez Drainage Project is approximately $11 million. He said the project, which was first proposed in 2002, was originally scheduled to be completed in three years but has stretched nearly 10 years because funding from the USACE has taken so long to secure because of budget cuts.

The original $2 million match was fully funded by the city using funds designated by the Mississippi Department of Transportation during the early stages of the project.

Gardner said, however, since the federal money was not given to the city by the USACE in a timely fashion, and because construction costs have increased in the past 10 years, the city was forced to come up with the additional $700,000.

Although the process has been lengthy, Gardner said he is glad to be at this stage of the project. He said a contractor would have to be in place before a definite time line for the completion of construction can be established.