The Water Resources Development Act funds water projects nationwide for the Army Corps of Engineers. Two sections of the 2016 act, now moving through Congress, concern the Pearl River in Louisiana and Mississippi. One is good; the other is not.
Section 5002 describes a restoration project in Louisiana to deauthorize and remove unused navigational locks and cede the control of the property to the state. Making the river less fragmented will improve navigation and make life easier for recreational boaters and for migratory fish like Gulf sturgeon and stripers.
Section 4020 would expedite the Corps’ review and decision process for the Pearl River flood control project in Jackson. This project’s environmental studies will likely be published this fall, and one version could impound the river to create a second lake, downstream of the Ross Barnett Reservoir.
The “One Lake” project is described by proponents as an economic development “game changer” for central Mississippi. Developing a new lake will keep construction firms and realtors busy for years. The wetland destruction, habitat loss, alterations to flow, evaporation and other downstream effects are consistently downplayed.
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Upstream damming could also clash with the ongoing $50 million marsh, oyster reef and shoreline restoration in Hancock County funded by BP settlement money. The Heron Bay restoration work is near the Pearl’s mouth and needs salinity to stay moderate to be successful.
Protecting the Pearl River’s fresh water flow will help ensure success. More dams won’t.
Water Program director,
Gulf Restoration Network