City’s water line project threatens wetlands, says VNMP

Published 11:00 am Friday, January 31, 2014

Questions about a wetlands area at the Vicksburg National Military Park along North Washington Street and a potential increase in park traffic caused by the project could delay plans to install an auxiliary main water line for Vicksburg.
City officials want to install the line to provide a backup water source for the city if its main water line goes down.
The route for the auxiliary line would start at the water treatment plant at Haining Road, go along North Washington Street to a point south of Fort Hill Cemetery, where it will cross park property to Fort Hill Drive and then to Cherry Street, according to plans from Jackson-based IMS Engineers. The line would connect with an existing city line on Jackson Street.
The Corps has approved a $2.45 million grant to cover 75 percent of the construction bill. The city would pay 25 percent, or $841,821.
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Jan. 6 approved applications for a right of way to bore under rail tracks at Haining Road and permits to lay the line across the park.
But unless the wetlands and traffic issues are resolved, the park will not issue the permits, said Virginia DuBowy, natural resources program manager for VNMP.
Her comments came at a meeting on the water line project between officials for the city, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and IMS.
Park officials are expected to meet with Corps on March 27 to work out a solution to wetlands problem.
The wetlands issue arose as the Corps’ environmental assessment report on the project was discussed. DuBowy said the National Park Service follows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service classification for wetlands, which is stricter than the Corps’ definitions. As planned, she said, the line would cross the drainage area for Mint Bayou, which flows through the park.
“The EA states no (wetlands) impact and we feel it is,” she said. “You are actually putting this pipe across wetlands in the park. I know the Corps addresses wetlands differently than the park does.”
DuBowy said she brought the wetlands issue up in 2010 after IMS was hired following a landslide along North Washington Street as the Corps’ Lower Mississippi Museum and Interpretive Center was being built. Since then, she said, no one had discussed it with park officials.
Traffic control is another issue for the park, she said, as the water line will be installed along Fort Hill Drive, the primary access to the USS Cairo Museum and the Vicksburg National Cemetery. As planned, traffic would be rerouted through the park to avoid the construction.
“I don’t know if that got tabled, but we never heard if you resolved the matter,” she said. “Is that going to create a bottleneck at our entrance station there?”
Also, legal descriptions that date to 1936 show Fort Hill Drive was deeded to Warren County. Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said talks with county supervisors continue to craft an interlocal agreement that would let the city install the one in the street.
“This is a work in progress,” Flaggs said.
North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield urged the Corps and the park service to resolve the wetlands issue as soon as possible.
“Right now time is of the essence,” he said, urging DuBowy and IMS to keep the city in the loop. “The last thing we like to happen is for time to bog us down, because remember the change of seasons is going to hit us. Let’s see if we can speed it up if we can.”
The land’s sudden shift nearly four years ago threatened the city’s main 36-inch water line and spurred talk of building the secondary line. The line was later relocated.

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About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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