PASCAGOULA -- The director of the Pat Harrison Waterway District told Jackson County supervisors he expects to have Lake George construction under contract by 2020.
Hiram Boone, executive director of the district, defended the agency's decision to move forward with the project that would dam tributaries to the Pascagoula River to create twin lakes, primarily in George County.
Boone said the lakes would help when the river is low, whether for industry use or to sustain wetlands.
He said damming the Big and Little Cedar creeks to create 2,900 acres of lake won't impact the river.
He said they've done a year of hydrology studies and have a 109-page environmental assessment. Anyone who wants to see it can file a Freedom of Information request with the state.
He said he expects the federal environmental assessment to be complete in two years, but he recommended Jackson County hold "at least one official public hearing" soon, so people can express themselves on the issue.
Four did on Monday.
-- Steve Shepard with the Gulf Coast Sierra Club told supervisors that George County will reap the benefits from the recreational lakes and Jackson County will get the damage downstream. He has remained concerned that controlling the flow of the Pascagoula River in any way will cost the river's designation as the last, large free-flowing or wild river in the lower 48 states. And he asked the county to withdraw it's $300,000 annual contribution to Pat Harrison.
-- Susan Jordan asked supervisors to withdraw their support for the project as listed on the Corps of Engineers permit. She said damming can't be undone and will be a legacy of the Board of Su
"In times of severe water shortage," Jordan said, "those lakes will be drying up just like the Pascagoula River, so there is no benefit at all."
-- Boat captain Kathy Wilkinson of Gautier said it looks like a project to develop waterfront property and make recreation areas.
"It seems unnecessary and even silly to promote it the way they've applied for it," she said, referring to it being for drought control.
-- Ernest Smith of Pascagoula asked the Board to consider the risk to properties downstream in times of heavy rains and consider buying out potential flood areas in Moss Point and Pascacgoula.
"If we're going to be left in harm's way of the overspill of these two lakes," he said, offer buyouts, "so we have the opportunity to go somewhere else."
Jackson County supervisors who spoke, told the crowd they weren't 100 percent in favor of the lakes, want to ensure the Pascagoula River retains it's designation and feel they need to look and the data behind the project for making any final decisions.