Innes: Joining river alliance beneficial

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 8, 1999

The key to the American Heritage River Alliance is community participation and partnership, said Lower Mississippi River Navigator Robert Innes Wednesday.

Innes came to Natchez to meet with area leaders about the program.

The American Heritage Rivers Initiative helps communities formulate comprehensive strategies. It also can give regions priority for economic development and small business grants, loans and free federal training and assistance regarding historical, environmental and economic issues.

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But the community has to take an active role in the initiative process, Innes said.

&uot;It’s based on what the community wants, not what somebody at a desk in Washington&uot; wants, he said.

The whole community has to take part of the process, Innes said.

The program was first announced in 1997 during President Clinton’s State of the Union address. Following the application process, 14 regions were selected for the program..

Although Mississippi chose not to take part in the federal program, both Natchez and Adams&160;County can opt into the program through the Lower Mississippi American Heritage River Alliance.

&uot;If Natchez is included, it will not be a new designation,&uot; Innes said. &uot;It will (just) be an expansion of an existing one.&uot;

The board of alderman has expressed interest in joining, and the board of supervisors is considering it.

In order for the city and county join, representatives from the Lower Mississippi River Alliance can recommend areas to be designated to the Council on Environmental Quality. The chairman of the CEQ has to approve an area’s destination.

The objectives of the initiative are environmental protection, historical and cultural resource preservation, economic development and community revitalization.

But the federal grants do not come automatically. All grant applications still must be carefully prepared.

&uot;You can not use the label to make up for (poor) staff work,&uot; Innes said.

But if the government has to choose from a large number of well-written grants, the River Alliance designation could give Natchez an edge, he added.

Natchez Mayor Larry L.&uot; Butch Brown hopes the project will help the city get funding for a riverside park.