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Riverfront museum to be renamed for towboat industry chief

Published 12:01 am Saturday, May 24, 2014

Part of a water resources bill passed by the U.S. Senate on Thursday would rename Vicksburg’s downtown river museum after a legend of the towboat industry.
Provisions of this year’s version of a Water Resources Reform & Development Act will rename the Lower Mississippi River Museum and Riverfront Interpretive Site after Jesse Brent, who founded Greenville Towing Company. In 1956, Brent — described as the “Granddaddy of the Towboat Industry” in a joint release Thursday from U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker — formed Brent Towing Company and served as its chairman until his death in 1982.
Brent was also a founder and board chairman of the American Waterways Operators and was on the board of the National Waterways Conference. In 2000, Waterways Journal named him “River Person of the Century”.
The $23 million museum opened at Washington and Jackson streets in August 2012 after nearly 20 years of planning. The facility features a main hall with educational exhibits about the river and offers tours of the retired towboat MV Mississippi IV.
The bill doesn’t specify a date for when the museum will be renamed. It’s the second structure slated to renamed for Brent in the past three months. In March, Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill that will rename the U.S. 82 bridge across the river in Greenville the Jesse Brent Memorial Bridge.
The water resources bill, HR 3080, moves on to President Barack Obama’s desk after having passed the Senate 91-7 Thursday and the House 412-4 Tuesday. The $12.3 billion bill finances 10 years worth of infrastructure projects to aid U.S. ports and waterways, including the Port of Vicksburg and other inland ports where dredging in low tides typically take place after larger ports along main stems of rivers like the Mississippi.
Also, the senators said, it increases funding for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which was set up in 1986 to finance dredging in federal navigation channels that haven’t been dredged in recent years. Congress has tapped the fund multiple times for projects unrelated to port development. Additionally, it creates a set-aside revenue stream for growing ports such as the Port of Gulfport.
Hurricane and storm damage reduction funding for Mississippi inside the bill includes $693 million, specifically for Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties.