Officials consider feasibility of river bend development

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, May 9, 2007

MONTICELLO – City and county officials met with state agencyrepresentatives Monday to determine the feasibility of a proposeddevelopment project on the Pearl River.

Members of the Lawrence County Community Development Associationboard, city aldermen, county supervisors, the county engineer andothers discussed the “Save Monticello” project with Gary Walker,with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Joy Floye, of theMississippi Development Authority.

“It was a good discussion. We got a little direction,” said BobSmira, executive director of the LCCDA. “I think what we’ll do isget in line for the Corps to do some stream bank erosionmitigation, but we don’t know when they’ll have the money to dothat.”

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The proposed project would cut a new channel for the Pearl Riverthat would straighten its course and eliminate a bend, Smira said.He estimated the channel would be approximately a mile long.

“It’s a very expensive proposition to dig that and it may be themost expensive part of the whole project,” Smira said.

It is also crucial to the proposal. The channel would create anisland for commercial, retail and residential development, Smirasaid. Possible development ideas have included a water park or an18-hole golf course, each with additional development to supportits theme.

In addition to the opportunities provided by having an island,Smira said, the cutoff bend of the river gives developers latitudefor other ventures.

“When doing that, you also create an oxbow lake which would providesome recreational activities,” he said.

Swimming, jet skiing, boating and fishing were among the manyopportunities afforded by an oxbow lake, Smira said. The oxbow lakewould be anchored around the existing Cooper’s Ferry Park, whichwould be in the center of the bow.

Straightening the channel would also help the town in other waysand would lend additional weight to the proposal, he said.Sloughing of the river bank in town has caused numerousdifficulties and poses some future danger to the public library andtax collector’s office.

Several attempts to mitigate the sloughing and numerous studies,including a few by the Corps, have had little effect in slowing thedamage.

Mayor David Nichols has said in the past that he has been told bystate officials that efforts to mitigate the damage completely aresimply too costly and funding is not available.

Smira warned that Monday’s meeting was simply to determine thefeasibility of the project.

“Right now, it’s a vision for the future,” he said. “It’s not onewe can start on tomorrow and there’s a strong possibility it willnever happen. But you have to have a vision.”