Plans ‘ready to go’ on sinkhole prevention work

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 25, 2001

NATCHEZ – As soon as the City of Natchez can acquire all the rights-of-way necessary for the project, the state Department of Transportation can start on a drainage project to help prevent sinkholes near the river.

&uot;Our plans are ready to go,&uot; said John Pickering, director of roadway design for the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

&uot;There are no utilities to move,&uot; he said. &uot;So as soon as the city can acquire agreements from the railroad and rights-of-way, we’ll be ready to let the project.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

And the city is working toward that goal.

In its last meeting, the Natchez Board of Aldermen authorized Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith to execute an agreement giving two easements to MDOT for the drainage work.

Except for the cost of legal action to execute such agreements, the project’s entire cost – about $2 million – is being paid for by the Department of Transportation, Pickering said.

As it now stands, only one small pipe runs under John R. Junkin Drive near the Mississippi River bridge to dump water into the river.

&uot;And that pipe is 99 percent stopped up,&uot; Pickering said. If the pipe stops up completely, water that would normally drain into the river saturates the soil.

That can cause massive sinkholes such as one that appeared on John R. Junkin Drive in August 1999, Pickering said.

That sinkhole was so big that the front end of one vehicle fell into it, and it took MDOT several days to repair the hole and reopen that lane of the highway to traffic.

During the project, crews will connect the small pipe with a larger storm drain &uot;and bring it all to one location under the railroad, where it will drain into the river,&uot; Pickering said.

MDOT officials do not yet know how long it could take to construct the project, he added.