Parish opposes ‘One Lake’ river project

Published 4:10 am Friday, January 26, 2018

The Washington Parish Council passed a resolution against the proposed “One Lake” project on the Pearl River in Jackson, Miss. The resolution passed at the Council’s meeting on Monday night, Jan. 22, in Franklinton.

With this action, both parish governments on the Louisiana side of the lower Pearl River oppose this lake project, due to concerns about reduced river flow and degradation of river habitats, wetlands, and potential harm to industries and municipal sewage plants permitted to discharge to the Pearl River. The St. Tammany Parish Council passed a resolution opposing the project in 2013.

Washington Parish Councilman Perry Talley, who authored Monday’s resolution, said: “One of Washington Parish’s greatest resources is the Pearl River System. It is an integral element to our past, present and future. While it is a resource to be utilized, it is also a jewel to be cherished and preserved.”

Talley is also a member of the Pearl River Task Force created by the Louisiana Senate Natural Resources Committee.

The “One Lake” project has been promoted as improving flood control for Jackson. However, the Rankin Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District voted in 2013 for this project as its locally preferred alternative, because it would foster economic development along a new urban riverfront.

After the council meeting, Gary Parker of Bogalusa, who has spent six decades on the Pearl River, said, “Millions of dollars of federal and state money have been invested in coastal restoration projects for oysters, and for wildlife management areas and refuges. To add more dams and increase the amount of water held upstream will only increase the rate of destruction on the lower Pearl. It would not be fair, nor would it be the right thing to do.

“I conclude that the good people in the Jackson area either do not really know what’s happening further downstream on the Pearl, or do not care.”

The project area — a seven mile river section flanked by the Mississippi cities of Jackson, Flowood and Richland — is now largely undeveloped floodplain forest and wetlands. The “One Lake” project would be situated about 8 miles downstream of the existing Ross Barnett Reservoir, completed in 1963 on the Pearl River. Dredging to widen the Pearl River and damming to impound a new 1500-acre lake would destroy 1000 acres of wetlands and impact two threatened species having designated critical habitat in the project’s footprint: Gulf sturgeon and Ringed sawback turtle.

State agencies, including the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, submitted scoping comments critical of this project in 2013, raising issues of flow impairment from additional upstream damming and related harm to fish and wildlife habitat, protected species, and important, expensive coastal marsh and oyster reef restoration projects. The Pearl River’s fresh water flow helps maintain healthy salinities in the Western Mississippi Sound, through Lake Borgne and the Rigolets to the eastern extent of Lake Pontchartrain.