City seeking to construct $10M dock

Published 12:05 am Thursday, May 14, 2015

NATCHEZ — Natchez’s riverboat traffic may soon increase.

The city is currently soliciting letters of support for additional docking at Roth Hill, which would be funded through a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant.

Through the grant, Natchez could receive approximately $10 million to construct a dock that could simultaneously hold two river vessels.

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The grant application is due to the U.S. Department of Transportation June 5.

Community Development Director James Johnston said in order to increase Natchez’s odds of receiving funds, the city is asking local stakeholders — such as restaurant owners, hotels and other tourism partners — to write letters of support for the grant.

“The riverboat traffic is increasing, and we don’t really have the infrastructure to accommodate extra vessels,” Johnston said.

The proposed floating dock would sit at the bottom of Roth Hill and feature railings that connect the river’s edge to the dock.

Because the grant would be federally funded, Mayor Butch Brown said it would come at no cost to the city.

“We’re pushing all the buttons we know of to make a strong case that we need this,” Brown said.

Come summer 2016, Brown said he is expecting several riverboats to make frequent stops in Natchez for the tricentennial year.

One vessel, he said, may have a permanent docking home in Natchez.

“We’re expecting it to have its home dock right here in Natchez,” said Brown, adding that the city is not yet ready to release the name of the vessel and when it would begin docking in Natchez. “It will be great for economic development and tourism.”

There is currently one dock located in the under-the-hill area that can hold one vessel. Brown said this dock would remain in place with the addition of the Roth Hill dock.

“We would still keep that one and utilize it,” he said.

So far, Brown said the city has solicited support for the Roth Hill dock from two state senators, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, among others.

The next step, he said, is simply securing the TIGER grant.

“I think we have an excellent opportunity through TIGER grant funding,” he said. “We wouldn’t have the money for this otherwise.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, TIGER grants are meant to fund capital investments in transportation, and are awarded on a competitive basis to projects that have a significant impact on the nation, a region or a metropolitan area.

Letters of support are due to the city planning department office, located on the second floor of city hall at 124 S. Pearl Street, by Monday.