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De-snagging' the Chickasawhay

By By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
March 8, 2001
WAYNESBORO The Chickasawhay River, which starts above Enterprise and runs into the Pascagoula River, was used by river boats and steam engines during the 1800s and was an important transportation route for the towns and settlements along its banks.
Today, it's hard to paddle a canoe from one end to another without having to get out in places and pull it past stumps, logs or garbage.
Aubrey Rozzell, a Quitman resident and the retired executive director of what was then the Mississippi State Parks Department, has made it his personal mission to restore the river to what it once was.
He has founded the Chickasawhay River Restoration Project and is in the process of enlisting people at the local, state and federal levels to help him in his quest.
Representatives from eight East Mississippi towns and three counties met at Waynesboro City Hall Wednesday with representatives from U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering's and Sen. Thad Cochran's offices. Also present were: Chris Bowen, executive director of the Pat Harrison Waterway District; Reginald Spears, the assistant state conservationist; and representatives from the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Rozzell stressed that this was an informational meeting. He and others want to make representatives of government entities aware of the problem and seek their input about what can be done.
Rozzell recently traveled the Chickasawhay River by canoe from one end to the other. He showed attendees a videotape and pictures of different problems along the way. They included logs laying across the river, stumps and piles of garbage and beer bottles.
In his presentation, he outlined his plan of action. He wants to "de-snag" the main channel of the river to improve water flow and make it safer. There will be no dredging or moving of soil that will change the river channel, and workers will not go onto the land of property owners along the river.
Rozzell hopes to accomplish the work with federal funds, working through one or more federal agency.
Spears listened to the plan, and agreed there is a need. He said it will be a large undertaking, and that the work might be done in parts. Bowen discussed with the others how it could be funded.
Mayor Tommy Blackburn of Quitman said there are miles of the river that won't need attention.
In the end, Rozzell was advised to work on a plan of action and determine how much it would cost. After that, he will take his plan to Sen. Cochran, who will work on funding.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at sswogetinsky@themeridianstar.com.

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