Bluff work about to resume

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 29, 1999

The next phase of bluff stabilization should begin soon, said city engineer David Gardner.

With the work concentrated on 2,700 feet of bluffs from Madison to State Street, the gazebo will have to be closed to accommodate the work.

Schnabel Foundation Co. of Atlanta got the contract with a $5.2 million bid.

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&uot;One of the first things they’ll do is put up a construction fence to keep people away from that area,&uot; Gardner said.

When completed, the newly-stabilized bluff wall will look much like the one already finished just north of the area, Gardner said. The only difference is that there will not be a mechnically stabilized embankment, like the bricklike walls along Clifton Avenue. Instead it will be just a shotcrete face.

The city has gotten a total of $12.5 million in state and federal grants for bluff stabilization. About $4.5 million was spent on the first phase, which was completed by Hayward Baker Construction Co.

&uot;We’re looking forward to working with the new contractor,&uot; Gardner said.

Schnabel’s contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which administers the money for the project, calls for them to complete it within 18 months.

Gardner said the project will be easier than the previous phase on Clifton Avenue because construction equipment will not have to weave down private streets near residences.

The purpose of the bluff project is to stabilize the side of the hill on which Natchez was founded. The last phase of bluff work reinforced the bluff below Clifton Avenue, where houses were threatened by the possibility of mudslides.

Natchez’s loess soil is the culprit – it has a soft consistency when wet, and can cause slides like the one that killed two people in 1981, or a sinkhole like the one that fell through John R. Junkin Drive recently.

A project that goes hand-in-hand with the bluff work is a longitudinal rock project continuing along the riverbank below.

The project, contracted to Pine Bluff Sand and Gravel of Pine Bluff, Ark., uses rock to reinforce the bank, which also will help stabilize the bluff. It is also paid for with a federal grant administered by the Corps.

The project has a second advantage: It will allow the city to reclaim about a mile of riverbank lost to erosion after the river’s course was changed.

Dirt from the new bluff project will be deposited beside the rock to further build up the area.

And if the city can get a grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation, that reclaimed land will be turned into a riverside park.

&uot;That would just be icing on the cake,&uot; Gardner said.