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National Park Service responding to Vicksburg’s call for help in the Military Park



African American Memorial in the Vicksburg National Military Park. (photo by Ron Cogswell, CC by 2.0,

The federal government is responding to Vicksburg’s call for help to deal with the severe erosion issues in the National Military Park.

Erosion has forced the closure of nearly a third of the roads in the park, concentrated in the northern portion. Those roads provide access to the U.S.S. Cairo exhibit and also surround some of the oldest graves on the property.

The Vicksburg Daily News began reporting on the closures Feb. 12 when the park announced them, then recorded some of the devastation through photos and video on Feb. 20.

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith visited the park the following day when she was in town for the naming of the Thad Cochran Center for Technology & Innovation. In an interview after the ceremony, Hyde-Smith said she would be speaking with U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt when she returned to Washington “to get things back as quickly as we can.”

“I assure you that we will be all over this to try and get things repaired,” Hyde-Smith said. “It is a sacred incident.”

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. mentioned the Senator’s visit in a letter he sent to President Donald Trump on Feb. 25. He wrote that it would take millions to repair the damage.

“Much of the unexpected erosion damage is concentrated in the Vicksburg National Cemetery, the second-largest military cemetery in our nation,” Flaggs wrote. “Graves of our American heroes are in jeopardy—some of which are already covered in mudslides from the natural disaster. The area most at risk is an older section of the cemetery where unknown burials from the 1860s took place, and the United States Colored Troops are interred.”

All that attention to the park has reportedly moved the U.S. Department of Interior, which oversees the National Park Service, to take some action.

The NPS is assembling an incident of regional experts to assess the damage and draw up plans to solve the problems. The team will first work to stabilize and mitigate the damage already done.

In 2017, the amount of economic activity generated by the park was put at $39.1 million by the Pew Charitable Trust. The park’s maintenance backlog was $18.6 million, threatening  “the integrity of the battlefield, the remaining historic structures, and many of the monuments and memorials.”

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Repairs to the roads alone would take $5 million three years ago. That expense has surely increased with the enormous damage caused by erosion since then.

“Like many other national parks, Vicksburg lacks adequate funding to repave roads, parking lots, and road bridges,” the trust stated. “Weather exposure and high traffic have caused significant wear and tear.”

The Vicksburg National Military Park is one of the most visited attractions in Mississippi, drawing more than a half-million people to Vicksburg every year. Opened in 1899, it commemorates the pivotal Civil War Battle of Vicksburg and includes more than 1,300 historic markers and monuments.

The park also contains the Vicksburg National Cemetery, where 18,244 soldiers are buried, most of them Union troops that fought during the Civil War. The cemetery is second in size only to Arlington National Cemetery outside of Washington, D.C.


Alcorn student leader works to advance other students in STEM fields



Alexandria Williams (photo courtesy ASU)

Last year, Alcorn State University was granted its official charter for the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers Chapter. This year, the organization appointed its first student leader.

Alexandria Williams, a junior computer science major from Detroit, Michigan, was named the first Miss NOBCChE for the Alcorn chapter. The organization assists aspiring STEM students in gathering knowledge about the field and becoming STEM professionals.

Solidifying her leadership role in the chapter is significant for Williams because she feels the chapter can achieve excellence. She’s happy to play a critical role in the chapter’s legacy on campus.

“It’s an incredible honor to be crowned Alcorn’s first Miss NOBCChE,” Williams said. “Alcorn’s chapter is destined for greatness, so this is history in the making. To be a part of this history feels amazing.”

Sonia Eley, NOBCChE adviser and chemistry professor, is confident in Williams’ ability to represent the chapter.

“Alexandria possesses the qualities it takes to lead this chapter,” Eley said. “Her intelligence, rapport with her peers and love for STEM make her the ideal selection for the position. I have faith that she will be an excellent leader whose exceptional decision-making skills would move this chapter forward.”

In her decision making, Williams relies on faith to steer her into her purpose. She’s confident that accepting her leadership role is the right path for her.

“I try to align everything I do with God’s purpose in my life,” she said. “I joined NOBCChE last school year and served as the social media and graphic design chairman. Through my experience, I learned more about my field of study, gained community service hours and made new friends. I had such an amazing experience that when I was presented with the opportunity to represent the organization, I couldn’t resist accepting the position.”

The chapter showcases the talent of Alcorn’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors. Williams applauds NOBCChE for providing a platform for aspiring Black STEM professionals.

“I believe that Alcorn’s NOBCChE chapter is important because the world needs to recognize the power of talented Black STEM students,” she said. “We are capable of being great in this space, and we possess the ability to change the STEM profession’s landscape. NOBCChE is one of many platforms that showcases our talent and worth.”

Ever-changing technological advances inspired Williams to become a computer science major. Watching these advancements fuel her desire to be one of the future’s leading engineers.

“We witness technological advances often. The world is transitioning to a new technological age,” she said. “We have autonomous vehicles, face detection in the palm of our hands and scientists are equipped to reverse paralysis. During this change, the world is searching for people to develop new technologies and introduce them to the world. Those professionals are engineers, and for some time, I’ve been dreaming about becoming one.”

Encouraging younger students to pursue STEM programs and careers also excites Williams. Last summer in her hometown, she created Coder Gals, a four-week program that introduces girls in grades three through five to STEM and coding concepts. Williams prepares a curriculum for the students, hosts workshops, trains mentors and distributes newsletters to parents. The lack of women engineers was Williams’ motivation for starting the initiative.

“I started a chapter in my community because of the lack of female representation in STEM fields. We strive to spark young girls’ interest in coding through fun, creative, and collaborative projects and create the foundation for their future success. We instill in them that they can succeed in any male-dominated field that they choose.”

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USACE publishes mainline levees Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement



Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published its Final Supplement II to the 1976 Final Environmental Impact Statement, Mississippi River and Tributaries Project, Mississippi River Mainline Levees in the Federal Register.

Through evaluation of information and data obtained from levee inspections, seepage analyses, research, studies and engineering assessments, the USACE Memphis, Vicksburg and New Orleans districts collectively identified 143 additional work items along various reaches of the Mississippi River mainline levees  feature of the MR&T project. These work items are remedial measures to control seepage and/or raise and stabilize deficient sections of the existing levees and floodwalls to maintain the structural integrity and stability of the MRL system.

The 143 work items constitute the proposed action for this Final SEIS II and are located across portions of seven states: Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. This document is intended to supplement and, as necessary, augment the 1976 FEIS and 1998 Supplemental EIS to achieve USACE’s primary goals for the MR&T:

  • providing flood risk reduction from the Project Design Flood; and
  • being an environmentally sustainable project.

The Final SEIS II is available online at the USACE Vicksburg District website. The 30-day review period begins Friday, Nov. 13, and ends Monday, Dec. 14.

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VPD reports a string of burglaries from Tuesday through Thursday



The Vicksburg Police Department reports that several burglaries occurred this week from Tuesday through Thursday.

On Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 5:58 a.m. officers responded to 1601 North Frontage Road in reference to a residential burglary. The victim advised he discovered the lock on his trailer was broken and multiple power tools valued at $5,000 were missing.

Tuesday at 11 p.m., officers responded to Parts Supply, 2406 South Frontage Road, in reference to an auto burglary. The victim stated he saw a white male wearing a camo jacket run from the cab of his truck carrying his lunch box while the driver was making a delivery to the store.

On Wednesday, Nov. 11, a victim came to the police department at 11:59 a.m. to report an auto burglary. The theft occurred on either Bridge Street or Evans Alley, sometime between Nov. 2 and Nov. 3. A Taurus 9-mm handgun was taken from the unlocked vehicle.

On Thursday, Nov. 12, at 8:41 a.m. a victim came to the police department to report an auto burglary. A black, white and lime green Scott bicycle was stolen off the back of the victim’s 2017 Nissan Altima. The bicycle is valued at around $3,000.

Also on Thursday, officers responded to Tri-State Tires, 2209 Washington St., at 10:19 a.m. for a business burglary. The complainant stated one of the U-Haul transports valued at $9,000 was stolen Tuesday, Nov. 10.

If you have information on any of these incidents, please call the Vicksburg Police Department at 601-636-2511.

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