As we change seasons in Mississippi, two recent announcements provide hope that maybe we are also seeing attitudes change about the importance of the fresh water provided by our coastal rivers to the Mississippi Sound.
In June, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) announced the release of the Governor’s Oyster Council final report of recommendations for improving the oyster industry. A few months later, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Restore Council) published its Draft Funded Priorities List (FPL), which will guide how a portion of BP disaster Clean Water Act fines are spent. Both documents list projects to restore or improve coastal habitats, including research on adequate river flow to coastal estuaries. The Oyster Council report calls for more information and research on “inland, the harmful effects that dams have on our coastal rivers. Simply put, the report recognizes that oyster health requires adequate fresh water from rivers.
The Restore Council’s Draft FPL includes a Gulf-wide project to measure, map and research trends in base-line fresh water flows from rivers draining to the Gulf, from Florida to Texas. The list includes a pilot project using one of Mississippi’s large coastal rivers. Because the Pearl River has more threats to its flow than any other coastal river in the state, GRN hopes that the Pearl River will be chosen for this project.
Andrew Whitehurst is GRN's Water Program Director.