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Jackson County no longer sponsoring Lake George project

Coast Sierra Club Chairman Steve Shepard, background, and Maxine Ramsay urged the Jackson County supervisors to no longer support the Lake George project.
Coast Sierra Club Chairman Steve Shepard, background, and Maxine Ramsay urged the Jackson County supervisors to no longer support the Lake George project.

PASCAGOULA -- Jackson County is no longer sponsoring the Lake George project.

In a split vote, supervisors decided Monday to take Jackson County's name off the official permit request for the project, which proposes damming a tributary to the free-flowing Pascagoula River to create two lakes for water reservoirs and recreation.

It's a George County project and most of the 3,000 acres of lakes would be in George County, but Jackson County was on the permit that asks the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for environmental approval for the lakes.

Steve Shepard, with the Coast's Sierra Club, told supervisors, "By having your name on the application, you were endorsing the project," even though individual supervisors have said they don't necessarily support it.

By removing the county's name, "you have taken the weight of your support off that application," Shepard said.

Since he took office two months ago, Supervisor Randy Bosarge said he has had 200 calls and letters from people asking that the county stop the project over concern for the Pascagoula River, the nation's largest undammed river in the lower 48 states.

Supervisors Ken Taylor and Troy Ross voted with Bosarge to remove Jackson County from the permit application.

Supervisors Barry Cumbest and Melton Harris voted the other way, even though one member of the audience chastised Cumbest because he and his family stand to benefit from the project by owning land in the project area.

Both Harris and Cumbest said they want to see the process play out through the Corps of Engineers. But Shepard pointed out that would cost about $3.2 million and take two years for the full environmental assessment.

Harris said he voted to keep the county's name on the application to keep good relations with George County, which is supplying wood for the new $24 million wood pellet plant coming to the Port of Pascagoula.

Cumbest said he sees it as a mutual-support issue between counties. He later said he does not see owning property as a conflict because the project hasn't gotten to the point where offers have been made to buy the land.

Ross said he voted to take the county's name off the permit, "because it's not our project. But we shouldn't come out and say we oppose a project that's George County's project."

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