City still seeks funds for drainage

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 31, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Options may still remain for the city to get at least some of the funding needed for improvements to the stormwater drainage system that serves north and downtown Natchez.

City officials met with representatives of the U.S. Corps of Engineers Monday to discuss some ways funding could be obtained.

Contrary to previous reports, the U.S. Corps of Engineers has only been given $2 million for those types of projects throughout Vicksburg District, not for the Natchez project alone.

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In fact, Natchez ended up getting no money for this fiscal year from the U.S. Corps of Engineers for the drainage project but did receive $2 million from the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

The plan is now to lobby the area’s congressional delegation for funding.

&uot;Our goal is to see if we can get something committed to us by October,&uot; City Engineer David Gardner, who attended Monday’s meeting. &uot;October is also when the Corps will know how much funding they can get for the next fiscal year.&uot;

Gardner has said he feels confident the Corps will give the city permission to spend the $2 million in state money first. Those funds were appropriated to match a $6 million Corps grant for the project, but that grant has so far not materialized.

Such permission is important because the city must spend the state funds by the end of June.

&uot;Worst case scenario, we’ll just do it in phases,&uot; Gardner said.

The $2 million in MDOT funds should be enough to repair the aging brick drainage canal under Canal Street, as well as repair the street.

Other needed improvements include upgrades to tributary drainage ditches throughout north Natchez.

The age of the system has led to sinkholes in addition to contributing to flooding in north Natchez. The canal caved more than a year ago, taking out part of the front yard and sidewalk in front of the Canal Street post office.

&uot;This project is crucial,&uot; said Mayor Phillip West. &uot;This (drainage system) drains half of Natchez.&uot;