Officials say Vidalia port study will be completed soon

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 3, 2001

VIDALIA, La. – A study of the feasibility of locating a port in Vidalia is still on the drawing board, according to officials working with the project.

In late May 1999, Vidalia received a $100,000 state grant for a study to determine the best location of what town officials call &uot;a loading and unloading facility.&uot; The money was made available July 1, 1999, with the study due to be completed by August 2000.

But the study has taken longer to complete than expected, and this week Copeland said the study should be finished in the next two to three months.

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Town officials want to locate the port as close to Vidalia’s industrial park as possible. &uot;We’re just not sure where,&uot;&160;Copeland said.

For one thing, the economy of the Miss-Lou is not as robust as it was when the study began, which could mean the port would not be as well-used as was once thought, said Gary Walker, senior project manager with the Corps’ district office in Vicksburg.

In addition, the Town of Vidalia has not come up with a source of funding for the project, &uot;and to finish this study, we’ve got to know we have a cost-sharing partner,&uot;&160;Walker said.

Copeland has said that the total project could cost up to $7 million, and more than $3 million would probably be needed just to start construction. And the Corps of Engineers – which is working on the project with the Town of Vidalia – has had some trouble finding a site that is suitable for dredging, Walker said.

Still, Copeland has said town officials cannot seek federal money for the project in earnest until the town has a study in hand saying what the project will include and where it will be located. He also noted that Vidalia is the only city on the river between Baton Rouge and Greenville without a port.

&uot;We’re not doing this to be in competition with Natchez,&uot; which already has a port, Copeland said. &uot;It’s just that St. Francisville, Vicksburg, Natchez all have one, but Vidalia doesn’t.&uot;