Bluff stabilization gets national award

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 5, 2004

LOUISVILLE, Ky. &045;&045; The City of Natchez and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Thursday received the National Preservation Honor Award for the stabilization of the Mississippi River bluff.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation presented the award to city officials at a ceremony during its weeklong National Preservation Conference.

&uot;It’s a tremendous honor all the citizens of Natchez can be proud of and that I’m proud of &045;&045; especially as it relates to the time and effort so many put into getting it done,&uot; Mayor Phillip West said.

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West said he hopes, such an honor will be helpful when it comes to lobbying for future projects.

David Preziosi, executive director of the Mississippi Heritage Trust, nominated Natchez for the award. He said it was unusual &045;&045; but fitting &045;&045; to recognize the project.

&uot;People do not normally think of an engineering project as preservation, but it is,&uot; he said. &uot;Instead of preserving a building, this is a project that really impacted the whole city. It saved the whole bluff.&uot;

Natchez City Engineer David Gardner said the city was honored to be recognized by the National Trust.

&uot;It is a tribute to all of the hard work of the many parties involved,&uot; he said, noting that the Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assisted on the project, as well as the private contractors.

&uot;It was a unique project because it forged the effort of so many entities, and the result was preservation of the bluff,&uot; Gardner said.

Preziosi, who was city planner in Natchez during part of the bluff work, agreed that cooperation was part of the entire project.

&uot;It’s a testament to how you can bring a whole bunch of people together to do a project and do it well,&uot; he said.

In 1980, a major mudslide killed two people and damaged numerous historic buildings in the Under-the-Hill Historic District.

After citizens and the Historic Natchez Foundation lobbied government agencies for funding, a temporary effort was made to stabilize the bluffs in the early 1990s.

In 1994, plans to construct a hotel on the bluffs were unveiled, prompting the National Trust for Historic Preservation to list the bluffs on its America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list.

In 1997, the stabilization project received $5 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, and $18.5 million more was allocated for the project by the Senate.

The work, which was done in phases, employed many engineering techniques being used for the first time in the United States, including soil nail walls, shotcrete surfacing and mechanically stabilized retaining walls.

&uot;From the time that the National Trust listed the bluffs on the America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list in 1994, the City of Natchez has taken every step to ensure that it remains the picturesque historic city that has made it so well known and beloved,&uot; said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust.