Committee works to dam St. Catherine Creek

Published 2:20 am Monday, April 19, 2010

NATCHEZ — Transforming St. Catherine Creek into a recreational hotspot remains the top priority of the project committee named for the waterway.

The committee, chaired by former Natchez Mayor Tony Byrne, will work in conjunction with the National Resources Conservation Service to draft a bill requesting $19 million to place two of five dam-like structures called weirs along an 11-and-a-half mile section of the creek.

The weirs will cause the dammed portions of the creek to flood, allowing enough depth for canoeing, kayaking and fishing.

The Mississippi Development Authority, awarded the committee $75,000 to conduct a feasibility study. However, a detailed environmental assessment has not been conducted. The committee hopes to fund the assessment using part of the $19 million if granted. Currently, the committee is working with Sen. Roger Wicker’s (R-Miss.) office to acquire funding, Byrne said.

The project’s total cost is estimated at $55 million, but committee members agreed it is best to request funding in increments rather than seek one lump sum.

The committee envisions St. Catherine Creek as a destination for both recreation and economic development, Byrne said.

The second and third weirs of the project, which accounts for the majority of committee’s $19 million request, are upstream of U.S. 61 South and upstream of the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians.

The first, fourth and fifth weirs are upstream of Lower Woodville Road, downstream of Liberty Road and upstream of Natchez Trace Parkway.

Committee member and City Engineer David Gardner said in a previous report the project will not only boost recreation opportunities, but also curb bank erosion and improve water quality.

While seeking funding, the committee is working to raise awareness about the project. Byrne said the committee is scheduled to present the project to the Leadership Natchez group April 29.