Project to restore, reconnect Mississippi River side channels gets Outdoor Stewardship funding

Published 2:18 pm Friday, March 1, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Residents of Adams and Jefferson County will see the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund at work on the Mississippi River. One of 33 projects approved for funding will reconnect and restore the river side channels in those counties. 

Scott Lemmons, executive director of The Nature Conservancy, said the conservancy will work with the Mississippi River Trust, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Army Corps of Engineers and Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee will work together on the project. 

Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund allocated $204,524 for the project with goals of restoring water flow and public access on Mississippi River side channels accounting for a distance of 7.5 miles. 

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Lemmons had crossed from Vidalia to Natchez Friday morning and was driving up US61 towards Vicksburg when he spoke about the project award on the phone. 

“It is a great opportunity to do good sound conservation work to conserve our fisheries resources and improve areas that are not normally accessible,” Lemmons said. “In low water situations these secondary areas would be landlocked. The funding we use can be leveraged for every dollar we bring to the table at 1 to 1 with federal funding.”

According to the MOSTF, the project will help the ingress and egress of fish species to extra channel habitat, improve water quality and increase recreational and commercial fishing. Additional recreational opportunities created by the project would include kayaking, alligator hunting, waterfowl, camping and birding. 

Habitat for threatened or endangered species will also be improved. Those species include the Pallid Sturgeon and Fat Pocketbook Mussel.  

Lemmons said there is no real significance for Adams and Jefferson Counties to see the project. The Nature Conservancy has worked on restoring secondary channels for the last eight years. The US Army Corps of Engineers provides options for where the project work can be done and Adams and Jefferson Counties happened to be the options this year. 

Lemmons said two of the project sites in Adams County are in close proximity to St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Work to remove a section of the rock dikes is typically completed in the fall when water levels are low. 

“We cut a notch to allow water to flow and allow fish to pass through in low water,” Lemmons said. “Pallid Sturgeon use these areas for spawning and they are an endangered species. A couple of the projects will benefit St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge.”

Alligator Gar currently uses the connectivity of the St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge floodplain with the Mississippi River. 

Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund announced $14.5 million in funding for 33 projects statewide Friday. According to a press release from the trust fund, nearly $30 million will be matched with project funds from other sources.

“We are fortunate to have this opportunity to work with the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund,” Lemmons said. “It is another partner to put conservation work on the ground. A lot of states don’t have it. We are fortunate to have this fund.”