One Lake: A Far Cry from Needed Restoration

 
Pearl River
An aerial view of the Pearl River. Photo Credit: Bonny Schumaker, On Wings of Care.

This article is excerpted from the Summer 2017 issue of Gulf Currents, GRN's bi-annual printed newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here

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GRN advocates for the Pearl River’s restoration and against further damming. The proposal to build a 1500-acre flood control lake on the Pearl River in Jackson, Mississippi has been in the study stage since 2013. In summer 2017, we expect feasibility studies and a draft Environmental Impact Statement for the “One Lake” project to be published. The project poses risks to habitats and to the health of the Pearl River downstream of Jackson. There is already a large dam on the Pearl River, impounding the Ross Barnett Reservoir, upstream from Jackson. Further channel modifications from a second lake include dredging the river deeper and wider, filling 1000 acres of floodplain wetlands, and blocking flow with a weir south of Interstate 20.

Lake construction doesn’t offer restoration and could work against projects down the Pearl that do. In Mississippi and Louisiana, 10 approved downstream and coastal projects either study the Lower Pearl’s hydrology or depend on its fresh water flow to work. Decommissioning the Pearl River Navigation canal locks and sills is a Louisiana project that Congress approved in 2016. Why would decision makers remove these blockages and then let the river be obstructed again upstream? Louisiana and Mississippi each have several BP disaster settlement-funded projects to restore shorelines, marshes or oyster reefs in coastal waters. Receiving enough fresh water from the Pearl at the right time of year is foundational to their success.

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