St. Tammany Parish Council Passes Resolution Opposing Lake Project

Mandeville, LA ” Tonight, the St. Tammany Parish Council voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution opposing a proposed dam on the Pearl River in Jackson, Mississippi. In the resolution, sponsored by Councilman Bellisario, several concerns are raised with the proposed lake project, including “reduced flow rates coming down the Pearl River, harm to the hydrology of the Honey Island Swamp and Pearl River Wildlife Management Area, and the future of the Swamp Tour Industry.” Potential ecological problems include decreased fresh water flow in the lower Pearl, evaporation, and effects on salinity in Lake Borgne, the Rigolets and Mississippi Sound.”Combined with existing effects to the Pearl from the Ross Barnett Reservoir, a new 1,500 acre lake in the Jackson area is inevitably going to impact the flow and amount of water that reaches downstream communities like Monticello, Columbia and Pearlington in Mississippi, and Pearl River in Louisiana,” said Andrew Whitehurst, Water Policy Director with the Gulf Restoration Network. “Oyster beds and coastal marshes in both states rely on the vital fresh water that the Pearl provides and this proposed dam is a direct threat to that resource.”Although the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood Control and Drainage District (Drainage District) is touting the proposed lake as a flood control measure, some suspect that real estate development opportunities are the real motivation for this project.”This is just the most recent attempt to dress up downtown Jackson riverfront development as flood control,” said Mr. Whitehurst. “There are plenty of other options for tackling flooding in Jackson, including floodplain buyouts, channelization, or levees, but those wouldn’t provide developable shoreline.”The Drainage District hosted a scoping meeting on the proposed dam in Jackson on August 29th attended by about 200 people, but the format of the meeting, which was styled as an information session with issue experts at tables spread around a large room, made it difficult for the public to comment on the proposed project.”The meeting seemed designed to keep microphones out of the hands of people critical of the lake plan,” stated Mary Stripling of the Jackson Audubon Society. “We were prevented from voicing our concerns out loud so others there could hear and understand them – it was very frustrating.”No scoping meeting is scheduled in Louisiana. Although a second public meeting for the project is planned for late October in Picayune, Mississippi, no date has been set.”Ultimately the health of the Pearl is inextricably linked to the people downstream whose culture and businesses rely on it,” said Mr. Whitehurst. “It’s vital that the Drainage District provide these folks with a meaningful opportunity to weigh in.”###You can read a draft copy of the resolution here (the final version was amended slightly to include some additional language).After the August meeting, an email portal was opened to receive comments and questions about the dam and lake project, including requests to be notified of any future meetings: RankinHinds@gmail.comFor additional background on this project, read Andrew’s blog post.Gulf Restoration Network is a 19 year old non-profit focused on empowering people the protect and restore the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico.

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