Pearl River Among America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2015
Washington, D.C.- American Rivers named the Pearl River among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2015 today, shining a national spotlight on the impacts a new dam would have on fish and wildlife habitat, coastal communities, and economically valuable fisheries.
“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are at a tipping point,” said Ben Emanuel of American Rivers. “Building a new dam on the Pearl River would be an expensive boondoggle that would cause irreparable damage. Now is the time to protect and restore our rivers, not build new dams and destroy the health of rivers and fisheries.”
The Pearl River is threatened by a new dam that would create another reservoir nine miles downstream of the existing Barnett Dam. The project would also widen, deepen, and straighten seven miles of the river. Jackson is unlikely to see flood control benefits from this project, and areas immediately downstream of this new dam will feel the negative effects of faster flows. The project will also submerge riverside habitat in LeFleur’s Bluff State Park.
American Rivers called on the Army Corps of Engineers to reject the Environmental Impact Statement and feasibility study for this new dam and reservoir on the Pearl River, and any other projects on the Pearl River that would have a significant adverse impact on river health and downstream and coastal communities.
“The reduced flow of water would not only jeopardize three threatened species of wildlife, but it would also impact the salinity levels in the Mississippi Sound and adversely affect oyster populations and both Louisiana and Mississippi fishing industries,” said Gene Bellisario, District 9 Councilman, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. “It would jeopardize the efforts to preserve the natural beauty of the entire Pearl River Basin, the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area, and the Honey Island Swamp.”
“Freshwater from the Pearl River is essential to healthy, sustainable oyster habitat in Lake Borgne and the Mississippi Sound. Any reduction in the amount of freshwater from the Pearl River would immediately impact oyster habitat and devastate the oyster industry for years to come,” said Mike Cure, Oyster Grower, Bayou Caddy Fisheries, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
“The State of Mississippi can’t encourage more upstream dams and still expect success with downstream, long-term coastal restoration projects that depend on the river’s sustained freshwater flows, like the ongoing $50 million BP Early-NRDA project to rebuild marshes and oyster reefs in Heron Bay at the Pearl River’s mouth,” said Andrew Whitehurst, Water Program Director at Gulf Restoration Network.
Brad Young, Executive Director of Mississippi Wildlife Federation, stated, “The Pearl River is a natural treasure of Mississippi that offers recreational opportunities for thousands of Mississippians as well as providing habitat for a multitude of fish and wildlife species. It is more important than ever that we protect the remaining natural function of the river and ensure that any future actions do no harm.”
“Placing another dam on the Pearl River will not only flood dozens of acres of prime bird habitat, but will also cause negative effects downstream not the least of which is the threat to water quality. This is an issue all Mississippians should be concerned about,” said Jay Woods, State Director, Audubon Mississippi.
“The bird habitat along this major migration corridor provides one of the most important and diverse avian communities in our state,” said Mary Stripling, Vice President/Membership Chair at Jackson Audubon Society. “This project threatens to remove valuable bottomland hardwoods and wetlands that are vital to many species of birds, especially those in decline. At least 200 species of birds have been documented and enjoyed by birdwatchers of all ages in LeFleur’s Bluff State Park, which has been designated an ‘Important Bird Area’ by the National Audubon Society. Any removal of habitat is a concern. We must protect the habitats birds need now for the future.”
The Pearl River provides drinking water to hundreds of thousands of residents in Metropolitan Jackson, Mississippi. In addition, estuaries in Louisiana and Mississippi at the Pearl’s mouth are highly influenced by the river’s freshwater flows. Productive oyster reefs in the Mississippi Sound and in Louisiana’s Biloxi marshes need the Pearl River’s natural flows to thrive.
The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.
“This year’s report underscores the importance of healthy rivers to each and every American,” said Irvin. “Whether it's for clean drinking water, ample water supplies for farms and cities, abundant fish and wildlife, or iconic places vital to our heritage, we all have a stake in protecting our nation’s rivers.”
About American Rivers
American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.
About Gulf Restoration Network
Gulf Restoration Network is a 21-year-old non-profit dedicated to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the health of the Gulf of Mexico.