Guest Blog writers Brenda Rody and Karen Taporco live in Ravenwood Subdivision in Picayune, Mississippi. They, along with their neighbors have been engaged since 2011 in a fight over an industrial development, a sand processing plant that serves the fracking industry, built over the last 4 years. Its construction has adversely affected drainage, water quality, and wetlands along a small creek that runs between their subdivision and the plant.
Raven Wood Subdivision in Pearl River County, Mississippi is separated by a stream, Alligator Branch, from county property on which an open space restriction exists. The county purchased the property in 2004 through a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation grant because of recurrent flooding during a time when it was used as a mobile home park. The existing structures were demolished or relocated outside the floodplain, and the land was deed-restricted in perpetuity to open space uses to restore and/or conserve the natural floodplain functions.
Since the acquisition, the City of Picayune and Pearl River County are allowing the development of a large industrial sand processing plant and a multi-track rail spur on the property. Construction began in 2012, without proper permitting, and damaged jurisdictional wetlands. The Army Corps of Engineers issued an after-the fact Section 404 Wetlands permit without consideration of alternative sites, an environmental impact study being performed, or a public hearing for this non-water dependent development.
The FEMA covenants for open space allow only certain types of uses as mandated by applicable statues. Construction of an industrial sand plant and associated rail spur are not allowed uses. FEMA did inform the developers that this was in direct violation of the open space covenants but the developers continued with the construction. FEMA has not taken any action to enforce their regulations & recently requested Federal court to dismiss them from our lawsuit claiming citizens don't have authority to force FEMA to take action on the violators.
The placement of fill and destruction of wetlands has greatly increased the occurrence of flooding and reduced the ability of Alligator Branch and the floodplain to handle flood events. The construction has created a “dam effect” on the county property stopping the natural watershed from the stream and posing a real threat of damage and flooding to the residents of the subdivision. Raven Wood residents are experiencing devastating impacts from the flooding and loss of enjoyment of their property. A lawsuit has been filed in Federal Court.
No government or administrative agency on the state or federal level, with jurisdiction over this site or the power to enforce regulations, has been willing to confront the problems created and try to offer useful enforcement or a remedy.
Brenda Rody and Karen Taporco are residents of Ravenwood S/D in Picayune, Pearl River County Ms.