City getting more money to widen Yazoo canal|[10/05/06]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 5, 2006

Another $850,000 toward widening the Yazoo Diversion Canal has been secured, Vicksburg officials announced Wednesday.

A letter from the Mississippi Development Authority to the city says the money was awarded from a Community Development Block Grant, a federal program. A public hearing on the grant is set for 9 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall Annex.

With the award, the city has received $1.5 million in CDBG funding through the MDA. The MDA had awarded $650,000 for the same project several years ago.

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The city’s supplemental request was for $1 million more in block grant money to pay to cover shortfalls in federal funding. The project was expected to cost about $3.6 million but the lowest bid received was about $4.7 million.

This month has been key in terms of funding because of deadlines, chief among them an Oct. 20 deadline when the low bid on the project, $4,660,765 from Cleveland, Miss.-based 4H Construction Corporation, expires.

Coupled with a $108,000 transfer in February from the Warren County Port Commission to the city, Warren County has put $164,168 toward the project.

Still, federal funding is the next challenge to getting the work bid out, specifically from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Through the Corps, the federal government was expected to pitch at least $500,000, though that revenue stream is said to be tenuous unless funding can be sought from other Corps projects that are not close to being bid.

On that front, Warren County supervisors will meet today with the Corps’ Planning, Programs and Project Management Division Chief Doug Kamien to get a funding update on the project from the Corps’ perspective.

The canal was dug in 1902 to preserve a waterfront presence to Vicksburg after the Mississippi River changed course. It flows past City Front and links the Mississippi River to the Port of Vicksburg and E.W. Haining Industrial Center. Making it deeper and wider will allow more traffic and keep the port viable for business.

Various attempts to improve the channel have been discussed and planned through the decades.