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Riverbank erosion threatens rail line

NATCHEZ — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is providing limited technical assistance to stop riverbank erosion that may threaten a portion of the rail line just south of the Mississippi River Bridge.

The tracks are used in the rail operations that move in and out of the Natchez-Adams County Port.

“The erosion is not stopping the rail, but if it continues, it certainly could,” Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said. “Obviously, we do not want any stopping or the rail or continued encroachment on those rails.”

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers geotechnical engineers visited Natchez Tuesday to advise in the placement of rocks to stop erosion on the riverbank, said Greg Raimondo, chief of public affairs for the Corps’ Vicksburg office.

The erosion happened after a portion of the bluff above the railroad track sloughed off and blocked a drainage ditch on the bluff side of the railroad tracks that run at its base, Raimondo said.

With the ditch blocked, water was forced over the top of the tracks and began eroding the bank on the rail-river side of the tracks, Raimondo said, and if unaddressed, the erosion could affect the base of the tracks.

“The bank is stable there, it is just getting eroded from above,” Raimondo said.

“If they stay on it and keep that ditch nice and clear when it rains, it should be fine.”

Natchez Railway General Manager Allen Antczak could not be reached to discuss the matter. Another Natchez Railway employee who answered the phone said he was not aware of the issue.

Russ said engineers with Adams County evaluated the situation, and county leaders would be evaluating if anything could be done to help the situation.

The corps was not able to provide more than technical assistance on the matter because it is on a private right-of-way and would require a special authorization similar to what was required during the bluff stabilization project in the 1990s, Raimondo said.

The Corps spokesman said the erosion is being addressed by placing rock at the site of the runoff.

Raimondo said a retaining wall or shotcrete on the bluff could address the sloughing issue, but as long as the water is allowed to flow through the ditch the issue will be resolved.