Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — The American Queen riverboat travels up the Mississippi River Tuesday evening after a stay in Natchez.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — The American Queen riverboat travels up the Mississippi River Tuesday evening after a stay in Natchez.

Corps disagrees with mayor on riverfront project

Published 12:06am Wednesday, April 16, 2014

NATCHEZ — A riverfront project for which the City of Natchez is hoping to enlist help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “complete” was finished nearly 20 years ago, a USACE spokesman said.

Mayor Butch Brown asked the USACE last week for help to reconnect Silver Street to Roth Hill Road along the riverfront, which he said would complete a 1996 USACE project that restored 11 of 22 acres Under-the-Hill that washed away following the rerouting of the Mississippi River that occurred after the Giles cut was made in 1933.

Brown made the request to the Mississippi River Commission while aboard the Motor Vessel Mississippi during the commission’s annual high-water inspection trip on the river. He has made the request to the commission multiple times in the past year.

Greg Raimondo, chief of public affairs for the USACE Vicksburg District, said Tuesday the 1996 project is complete and performing as designed.

Brown said, however, he did not feel the project was finished.

“It’s not in my eyes, or in the city’s eyes,” he said. “It was authorized to go from point A to point B, and it was stopped short of point B.”

The 200-300 feet on the riverfront the city would like the Corps to stabilize was originally included in the Corps’ scope of work for the project, Raimondo said.

“The project design was changed during construction,” he said. “This is a common occurrence. If this federal(ly) funded project wasn’t performing as designed, we would make repairs. The project is performing as designed.”

Raimondo said USACE has sent geotechnical engineers to the site who did not find problems with the riverbank.

“In fact, at the upstream end of the bank, there’s some sedimentation building up, so that means the bank is in good shape,” he said.

If the USACE helps reconnect Silver Street to Roth Hill Road, it would also stabilize the boat ramp Under-the-Hill. Brown has said he would also like the USACE’s help installing two additional boat ramps on the riverfront that would be uses by riverboat cruise vessels that visit Natchez.

Raimondo said Brown and Col. John W. Cross, commander of the Vicksburg district, are scheduled to meet in early May to further discuss the status of the riverfront.

Brown said he will continue to work on getting the riverfront project funded.

“If somebody says, ‘No,’ it’s just a request for more information,” he said.