More than 250 people filled the Senior Citizen Building on Tuesday night to tell the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers what they think of the proposed Lake George project.
The atmosphere was like a huge social — with people milling and discussing the Pascagoula River — rather than a hearing where ideas were spoken to the group.
One local estimated more than half of the attendees were from the Coast, where there’s strong opposition to the project that would damn two tributaries to the Pascagoula River and create twin lakes in George and Jackson counties called Lake George.
The rest were from the immediate area, where business people and residents are more likely to favor it.
The Corps of Engineers gathered comments one by one through computers and short interviews. Some say it created confusion.
Here are a smattering of comments:
▪ Sherwin Ray would lose land to the lakes if the tributaries to the Pascagoula River are dammed. He wanted to see a forum that would allow interaction and people to speak their questions so they could learn from each other, rather than the fragmented meeting.
“This is designed to keep people from getting information directly,” he said. “When you ask your question, no one else will hear it.”
▪ Jennifer Walker, a George County businesswoman, said she came to say she likes the idea of the lakes to help tourism and the local economy.
▪ Kaytlin Dorris, a Coast hospitality management student, said the millions of dollars proposed to build the lakes would be better spent cleaning up the Coast’s sewers and the Mississippi Sound.
“I’m the person who has to tell visitors the beach is beautiful, but the water is not safe,” she said. “This (the lake project) is a huge waste of money.”
▪ Colby McClain, a geography student, held a sign that said: “Since when does Mississippi believe in climate change?”
▪ Jill Mastrototaro, Gulf specialist with the National Wildlife Federation, said the federation is submitting comments because it is concerned about the impact the lakes would have on the river and the Mississippi Sound. She offered a list of projects that represents a more than $1 billion investment in the Coast using BP oil-spill money. Her office doesn’t want to see a project upstream jeopardize work done downstream.
She said they want to make sure the Corps of Engineers looks holistically at the watershed when they study the lake project.
The Corps of Engineers will be taking comments until Feb. 6.