Project to raise Silver Street above flood level may be shelved

Published 5:23 pm Thursday, June 13, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said the future of the project to raise Silver Street is in jeopardy because an agreement has not been completed with property owners in the area.

The city received approximately $1 million in grant funding from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality’s Mississippi’s Clean Water Infrastructure grant program.

Gibson told aldermen at its meeting on Tuesday that the funds must be obligated by Aug. 31 for a specific program, or they will be lost.

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Gibson said the project for which the funds will be used must also be completed by Sept. 30, 2026.

In addition to the MDEQ grant, the city has set aside approximately $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the project.

But more money is still needed, the mayor said, likely several hundred thousand dollars because of steep inflation on construction projects.

“We have reached a point where we do believe we are going to need more private investment from people who are going to benefit from this project,” Gibson said. “The cruise companies have pledged a half million dollars.

“We must be careful not to put the city in a financial bind, understanding we now have to repair the Canal Street bridge over the Natchez Railroad. That’s an unbudgeted $800,000 expense for the city. That’s been a real challenge. Up until the end of April, we were hoping to get assistance through the Mississippi legislature to repair the bridge. while Natchez got some great things from this legislative session, help to repair the bridge was not one of them,” he said.

Gibson said raising taxes is not an option for the City of Natchez.

“We are very grateful. We have done so much without raising taxes and we don’t want to raise taxes going forward, and we have to make sure we keep within the city’s budget,” he said. “We are very grateful for the landowners involved, but we are up against the clock, and time is running out.”

The plan is to raise Silver Street to a level that future floods would not close the street.

“We have not had to close the street because of flooding since 2019, but if and when it does happen, it creates major challenges for everyone using Silver Street and obviously for our cruise companies and merchants doing business Under the Hill. It has also been our hope that we can raise the street enough where land that is not now developable will become developable in the future,” Gibson said. “If we don’t get the private donations we need to move forward, that doesn’t mean we will never do it, but we may have to shelve the project until a later date when we have the funds.”