Editorials

Now is the time to speak out about lakes

The Pascagoula River winds through George County before making its way to neighboring Jackson County. The Pascagoula River is the only free flowing river in the U. S.
The Pascagoula River winds through George County before making its way to neighboring Jackson County. The Pascagoula River is the only free flowing river in the U. S. ttisbell@sunherald.com

It is hard to look upon the beauty of the Pascagoula River and imagine anything humans might do to improve on this natural wonder.

Still, there are those in George County intent on damming a tributary of the river.

The resultant lakes in southeast George County and northern Jackson County, they say, will release water into the Pascagoula in times of extreme drought.

The Pat Harrison Waterway District, which backs the plan along with the George County Board of Supervisors, says it will operate and maintain the lakes for public recreation. And the lakes likely will increase the value of surrounding property.

We are among the skeptics who live downstream from those benefits.

We like the Pascagoula just the way it is, the centerpiece of a budding eco-tourism industry in southeastern Jackson County. The people down here love that river — so much so they volunteer for a Renew Our Rivers campaign that has picked up just under 40 tons of trash and junk from its banks and waters in the last 10 years.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is gathering public comments on the proposal. You can email comments to michael.b.moxey@usace.army.mil or at the website www.georgecountylakesEIS.com.

If you are wary of the effect these two lakes could have on the river, its ecosystem and the downstream environment, now is the time to speak up.

As the document the corps published on the Federal Register says, there are alternatives to building dams on the Little Cedar Creek and the Big Cedar Creek.

Among the alternatives is leaving the rivers alone — finding ways to “avoid, minimize and compensate for impacts to the aquatic environment” and alternate practices to deal with droughts.

There are plenty of reasons to doubt a pair of lakes will improve on the Pascagoula.

“Dams block the movement of fish and other aquatic species, inundate river habitat, impair water quality, and alter the flow regime necessary to sustain river life,” the pro-river, anti-dam American Rivers writes on its website.

“As dams age and decay, they can also become public safety hazards, presenting a failure risk and a dangerous nuisance.”

The Corps of Engineers plans a public meeting Jan. 24 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the George County Senior Citizens Building at 7102 Highway 198 East in Lucedale.

We would hope the Corps of Engineers would have a meeting on the Coast. We have a huge stake in the fate of that river, too.

That is why it is crucial that our story be told at that meeting in Lucedale.

It could be the Coast’s only chance.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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