LeFleur Lakes DOA? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

LeFleur Lakes DOA?

LeFleur Lakes developer John McGowan insists that his project to flood the Pearl River basin between Jackson and Flowood to create lakefront property for downtown Jackson is dead in the water if the city continues to support the construction of the Airport Parkway Project.

"If you build the airport stack over downtown Jackson, and you leave that swamp and levee across the river from downtown Jackson, there is no way that we can come up with any money to build (Lefleur Lakes). Also, if you don't build access to the island, there's no way we can build it privately," McGowan said.

"You have a choice: Build the stack and forget about LeFleur Lakes or get solidly behind LeFleur. We can't make it without a downtown waterfront."

Supporters of both projects met Dec. 18 at a City Council committee meeting. Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon and Council President Ben Allen called the hearing after council members learned that their support of the Airport Parkway last month could deep-six the LeFleur Lakes plan.

The Airport Parkway is a federally funded project to alleviate bottlenecks along Interstates 55 and 20 by building a highway link between downtown Jackson and the airport in Flowood. The Airport Parkway Commission has already invested $40 million in land acquisition, planning and other stages of the project.

Unlike the parkway, Lefleur Lakes is dependent upon private investment, but private investors are balking at new costs imposed by the Airport Parkway. McGowan said the addition of the parkway has prompted the Army Corps of Engineers to hike the cost estimate for the $150 million lake project to $1.5 billion.

Robert Muller, an engineer working with McGowan, added that investors are also unwilling to put money in an island languishing under the shadow of a noisy interstate exchange.

"It's just not as simple as 'building it anyway.' That land there is what it's all about. The plan with the parkway guts the valuable real estate in downtown Jackson. The island that they've designed has shifted up, and it's more expensive now. It comes down to whether or not you want to create wealth or give the subdivisions quicker access to our resources," Muller said.

"It's got to be downtown."

Environmentalists say the idea of flooding the cypress swamps and wetlands between Flowood and Jackson, proposed by the LeFleur Lakes project planners, would further endanger rare species that inhabit the swamp, such as the Ringed Sawback turtle and the Gulf Sturgeon.

Opponents may find their most powerful allies in suburban leaders like Flowood Mayor Gary Rhodes, who wants a congestion-free road in and out of Jackson.

Also working against Lefleur Lakes is the advanced state of planning for the $424 million airport parkway, as indicated by Richard Young, general engineering consultant and project director of the parkway.

"The driveway acquisition stage began in 2005, and right now it's winding down. … Contracts have already been let to clear some of the right of way. There are 17 homes being demolished as we speak to clear parts of that right of way," Young said, adding that of about $37.5 million already collected, around $30 million has been "either spent or obligated."

Young said the environmental evaluation of his project was completed seven and a half years ago, with 95 percent of planning complete and the MDOT review and comments already incorporated.

McGowan, comparatively, said he was still waiting for the environmental statement on the Lefleur Lakes Plan.

"This statement was due a year ago by the same engineering group that's doing the Airport Parkway," McGowan complained. "The (Mississippi Engineering Group) was supposed to be doing both jobs, and they have not done the Environmental Impact Statement on ours."

Council President Allen said he was shocked at the lack of communication between advocates of both projects.

"I'm surprised that both of these parties were trotting along in a vacuum and didn't know the other party existed. That's the big disappointment to this whole process," Allen said.

"We've got people who've been working on one project who also worked on the other project, and yet the two projects are mutually exclusive. This really blindsided (the council)."

Muller stopped short of accusing the Mississippi Engineering Group of deliberately sabotaging LeFleur Lakes in favor of the Airport Parkway.

"I'm not suggesting that they've got ulterior motives. I'm just saying that they've got a priority and that they've made their priority the airport parkway," Muller said.

Allen and Barrett-Simon were hesitant to announce their support of one project over the other this early. Neither wants to be the one to pull the plug on the council's interlocal agreement to back the Airport Parkway, but neither do they want to be identified as the killers of Lefleur Lakes.

"I just can't say how it's going to go this early," said a clearly annoyed Allen.

Ward 6 Councilman Marshand Crisler, who sat in on the meeting, said the airport parkway looked like a done deal.

"I truly believe the parkway will go across the river and connect to the airport. Like Young said today, the planning there is 95 percent done. You don't get 95 percent out and then put the hold on a project. I'd be surprised, after all this dialogue, if the airport parkway project is halted," Crisler said Monday.

Council support is nevertheless necessary for the parkway. The interlocal agreement, required by Mississippi legislation, demands that the city vote to accept ownership of the land acquired for the right of way of the project.

"If they don't agree, that could kill the project," Young said.

"In that case, the lawyers and the federal people and the state people and MDOT would have to step in and see if they could restructure the interlocal agreement. Would MDOT just step in and do it? We just don't know."

Previous Comments

ID
67155
Comment

Sounds about right... we have a chance to do something progressive that would change the face of the city only to create a mostly unneeded route to the airport? And we'll still be leaving downtown completely vulnerable to a disastrous flood. Only, there's likely to be much more down there to damage this time around.

Author
millhouse
Date
2006-12-20T18:11:15-06:00
ID
67156
Comment

I'm not sure LeFleur Lakes is "progressive." I'm against it based on what I know so far. As I understand it, the flood-control aspect of it is way overplayed.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-12-20T18:22:48-06:00
ID
67157
Comment

Mostly Unneeded? Trust me, the traffic number can bear out the need for it. The development potential along that road would be amazing.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2006-12-20T19:03:01-06:00
ID
67158
Comment

If it provides flood control while creating opportunities for economic development that are above and beyond most around the area, I'd say it's progressive. I've heard people say that the flood control part is bogus, but I've not personally seen any reason to believe that as of now. If the Corp ever releases their study, that would shed some light. I also don't see how the airport parkway would benefit the city of Jackson in any way. The road would be entirely in Rankin County, minus the actual bridge spanning the river. And, even if Rankin received most of the benefits from the lakes project (I've heard this, but have no idea how valid that is), I still can't imagine how it wouldn't be a much bigger boon to the community than a parkway to the airport. It's not exactly hard to get to the airport from downtown or vice versa as is. So, yes, I'd say it's mostly unneeded. It sounds like a Rankin County-geared project, and I don't give two ----s about that place.

Author
millhouse
Date
2006-12-20T19:22:30-06:00
ID
67159
Comment

I can't argue the parkway point, Bruce—don't know enough, yet—but the evidence that Lefleur Lakes is the panacea for flood control is not good at all. And it could be nightmare for people down stream from us, not to mention an environmental nightmare. There are other ways to use the Pearl for economic development without such an expensive, extreme solution that would make some folks rich and might well royally fail. I suspect the iTodd will chime in here. He can debate the details with you a whole lot better than I can.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-12-20T19:26:13-06:00
ID
67160
Comment

Don't think small. Easier access to Jackson from the airport has been needed for years. Direct access would be a boon for not only high street, but rankin in general. They're not coming back, don't forget.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2006-12-20T19:27:20-06:00
ID
67161
Comment

a) Who in the world is Bruce? b) Don't accuse me of thinking small. That's ridiculous...and completely fitting considering the source. [quote]They're not coming back, don't forget. [/quote] What bizarro world have I entered?! What the hell are you talking about?

Author
millhouse
Date
2006-12-20T19:31:58-06:00
ID
67162
Comment

I have no idea where the "Bruce" came from. ;-) Please disregard. I'm definitely in Bizarro world today. I'm not saying you're thinking small; I just don't agree that LeFleur Lakes is a good idea.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-12-20T20:01:43-06:00
ID
67163
Comment

I could take MH's comments about where I live and run with it, but that would be to easy. Sadly, many in RK county have the same attitude about Jackson. And it's tax base shows. One don't exist without the other. And I was totally behind the Lefleur plan for economic development in Jackson. Been to many cities where it worked. Visit San Antonio to see what happens when you open up waterfront. Figured the enviromentalists would never let it happen though. Then I wandered on a thread here that proposed something else altogether. Parks, walkways and trails intertwined along the river. Throw in a couple ampitheaters and you got something special. Low cost and highly tourist oriented. Would even drive real estate downtown for those folks wanting the "city" experience and great places to "get away from it all". Exactly why I love the blogs here. Collectively, folks can open up your eyes quickly to real possibilities.

Author
Doc Rogers
Date
2006-12-20T21:58:41-06:00
ID
67164
Comment

Doc, you rock. Yes, I am a poet. ;-) And you're right: What you're talking about is helping economic development in places like Athens, Ga. The city needs to get serious about green space if we're serious about attracting and keeping the creative class. We have a place for motorboats already, and there are many young professionals who care a whole lot more about canoes and hiking than about jet skis and water skiing. We can have both if we handle this right.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-12-20T22:09:59-06:00
ID
67165
Comment

"I'm not saying you're thinking small" Oh, I know you weren't.... Ironghost came up with that one.

Author
millhouse
Date
2006-12-20T22:15:30-06:00
ID
67166
Comment

I was trying to say "small in scope". I don't see that a parkway and trails ect couldn't coexist. Two Lakes has problems and little evidence of a being a solution.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2006-12-20T22:26:26-06:00
ID
67167
Comment

I lived in Athens, GA from '85 - '90. It's the Oconee that runs through there. Unlike our rivers from run off, North GA rivers are crystal clear. I loved walking on that river! Short of a bar, O'Maleys, there was no access/view in Athens. It was treated as a ditch much like the Pearl. But what possibilties exist! To the un-initiated, take the walk from the Natural History Museum into the Pearl River bottom. They've made awesome walking trails that nature brilliantly changes each season. Extend this idea along the whole river would be outstanding. I use to bike the levees along the river and remark how fantastic the views were while looking at the sky line of Jackson . Some folks would think I'm exaggerating, but it's like Central Park. Standing in a metro world while viewing nature up close and personal is a unique experience.

Author
Doc Rogers
Date
2006-12-20T22:39:15-06:00
ID
67168
Comment

Doc: you make good points. Two Lakes probably wont' happen. too many are not progressive in their thinking.

Author
Kingfish
Date
2006-12-21T09:58:03-06:00
ID
67169
Comment

We have a place for motorboats already, and there are many young professionals who care a whole lot more about canoes and hiking than about jet skis and water skiing. We can have both if we handle this right. There's a story in the book the "Creative Class" (obviously something of a bible of mine) that tells the story of a young professional in his boat -- canoe or kayak, I forget which -- paddling away furiously on a Saturday afternoon. A bass boat with a few hard-working blue-collar types with their fishing gear and beer cooler zips up beside him to ask what he's doing. He tells them that he's "relaxing" -- they look at him in puzzlement. It looks like he's working his tale off. They, on the other hand, are clearly the one's relaxing. OK, so it's a gross generalization. But the generalization that follows from it is that people who sit all week to make a living might like to get out and work hard for their recreation on the weekends, while people who break their backs all week to make a living like to take it easy. The point is that Jackson is uniquely poised to have both types of resources -- a beautiful, sprawling, amazing motorboat lake *and* a pristine river environment both as assets in its Metro area. Leland Speed is welcome to build his condo building on the Reservoir...or on a bluff overlooking the Pearl's redevelopment as a greenway, where he can wheel out on his balcony and watch his grandkids take off their helmets and drag their kayaks ashore. A greenway is less damaging to the environment, it respects the rivers *need* to flood (to nourish the landscape and replenish important inputs into the river's ecosystem that keep things like fish and fauna thriving) and it is -- to be quite honest -- all the rage in "progressive" (some might call it "conservative") city planning around the country...particularly in cities and regions that are looking for high-tech, knowledge economy growth. Not to mention in cities where flooding is a problem...the solution is to spend those millions of dollars getting people out of the flood-plain and putting together a resource for the entire city to use for recreation, beautification and as an economic engine: - Great article on Greenways - Rails-to-Trails - Rails-to-Trails overview on greenways (895kb PDF) - Knoxville, TN - Vancouver - Greensboro - Warsaw, IN - Oak Ridge - Providence, RI - Nashville, TN - St. Louis - Raleigh, NC - Cincinnati - Florida Panhandle - Charleston, WV

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2006-12-21T10:54:11-06:00
ID
67170
Comment

Amen. Lefleur Lakes is backward thinking by a few powerful men. And we've had enough of that in this state over the years. Let's really get the campaign for a greenway along the Pearl going in 2007.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-12-21T11:35:18-06:00
ID
67171
Comment

oh give me a break Ms Ladd. I like the twin lakes project. I'd like to see a nice downtown Jackson. If I had my way, we'd have the convention center and a 13,000 seat arena and the new museum on a new twin lake project with Trustmark Park and Basspro on the other side. I like putting an ampitheater and park on the lake as well, I don't care which side. I think it should benefit both Rankin and Jackson. I like the idea of bike trails and areas where people can khayak. You can regulate the size of motorboats and jetskis. I don't have a problem with boats per se, just the big kind you see on the coast. No reason a sailboat and cobalt can't coexist on such a lake. I think it would attract people to the area, give this area some prominent scenic beauty like San Antonio has, and improve the overall quality of life. There are more than a few who think that way and that is not backward thinking by a few powerful men. That sounds like something you would hear on the bottom line. The backward thinking as you put it would be to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. But if you want a project that will bring changes to the area you are backwards. Interesting. Not progressive even if not conservative. interesting.

Author
Kingfish
Date
2006-12-21T11:53:55-06:00
ID
67172
Comment

Let's really get the campaign for a greenway along the Pearl going in 2007. Ladd The greenway will be a "mud way" if proper flood control of some sort is not implemented. All it takes is a small rain in Philadelphia to make the Pearl spill out into the overflow areas around downtown. A big rain up and down the Pearl leads to low level flooding. That is without even getting close to '79 levels! I don't know the right answer to this. However, if our council screws up the Parkway then it will resemble the botched MCI building that moved to Clinton once they got their greedy little fingers involved. You can't keep stringing along projects and then poop on them at the last minute without losing in the end. I'm surprised the Mayor hasn't said he has some billionaire lined up to build both! ;-)

Author
pikersam
Date
2006-12-21T12:48:49-06:00
ID
67173
Comment

I loved it when Crisler said you dont plan 95% into a project and then put it on hold. I cant think of any right off hand...King Edwa...no. Farish.....no......Airport Par....no...Old Cap, nah.....You get the idea.

Author
colby
Date
2006-12-21T14:48:38-06:00
ID
67174
Comment

Kingfish sez: I like the twin lakes project. I'd like to see a nice downtown Jackson. If I had my way, we'd have the convention center and a 13,000 seat arena and the new museum on a new twin lake project with Trustmark Park and Basspro on the other side. I like putting an ampitheater and park on the lake as well, I don't care which side. One thing that may be missed here is that the idea of downtown waterfront and a greenway may not be (in fact, it's possible that they SHOULD not be) mutually exclusive. One the non-Two Lakes proposals that I've seen is to flood the part of the Pearl below the Waterworks in order to create some of the water-retention benefits of the Two Lakes engineering while bringing the water levels up near downtown and creating all the amenities that you imagine. It would still take flood-control measures up-river to slow the flow of water into the Metro, but it could be part of the solution all around without destroying the river from the Spillway to the Waterworks and flooding Mayes Lake and Lefleur's park.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2006-12-21T15:19:23-06:00
ID
67175
Comment

Pike sez: The greenway will be a "mud way" if proper flood control of some sort is not implemented. All it takes is a small rain in Philadelphia to make the Pearl spill out into the overflow areas around downtown. No doubt. The greenway on it's own isn't a flood control solution. That said, there's a whole branch of thinking out there that doesn't *do* flood control anymore, it does "flood damage reduction." (That's really the "best practices" terms for flood control these days.) The Pearl is designed to flood. It's a fact. Ask God. The problem is that Jackson has allowed people to build in the floodplain for years based on the assumption that the levee system would hold back major events. Now, 75, 50, 25 years later we're seeing how well it works to assume levees will solve problems on their own. What greenways are designed to do is create a natural environment that can withstand flooding and that make a the floodplain a public resource when the river is not experiencing an "event." To actually minimize flood damage, however, means planning for floods upstream from populated areas and, where possible, it means buying property in the floodplain and returning it to the stone age. :-) Another something not talked about much in the Two Lakes discussion...there is a TON of impermeable space, mostly parking lots and roads and buildings -- that are upstream for the prospective Two Lakes area. Contrast this with the lack of such space north of the Reservoir. Common sense dictates that there will be a lot of pollution in the Two Lakes because of runoff during heavy (even light) rains from County Line, Ridgeland, Madison etc. Oh, and another thing (you can tell I've thought about this)...the ground is permeable space. Trees soak up water. Water, however, does not soak up water; water levels rise when more water comes in. There are serious questions about what happens to Town Creek, Hanging Moss Creek and others during rain events if they're also pouring into a pre-flooded flood plain. With the development that's happened in and around the flood plain since '79 (we're creeping up on 30 years since then), the 100-year-event water levels may already be completely out of whack, so engineering to exceed them by a few feet may not be the solution. It may create a serious chicken-and-egg problem for "flood control."

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2006-12-21T15:19:42-06:00
ID
67176
Comment

The major creeks draining into the Pearl are another problem with Two Lakes. Where is the run-off from these creeks supposed to go if the Pearl is already flooded? Nor do I think that residents who live on the creeks want standing stagnate water behind their homes year-round. You think mosquitoes are bad now! Wait until then! I don't think that FEMA wants to buy-out homes that are in the floodplain because that means less home owners are paying "mandated" Flood Insurance. I think that they need all the money they can get from homeowners just to cover flood events in other parts of the country. They are strict about building new buildings in flood plains; but, probably have worked out that they need these "floodplain homes" paying insurance to help with their budgets. It's a scam!

Author
pikersam
Date
2006-12-21T16:25:59-06:00
ID
67177
Comment

Two lakes will be one big lake when we get another flood of 79. Of course, Flowood will become the New Atlantis...

Author
Ironghost
Date
2006-12-21T21:44:44-06:00
ID
67178
Comment

Why wouldn't a levee system work as well as these lakes? Levies on both sides of the river and a large holding lake South of Jackson and North of say..Columbia.....a second reservior if you will. Then you do indeed develope a green zone and all of the land behind the Levee is then able to be developed respective of the existing topography and Fauna.....no clear cutting required..... I mean a levee sytem can be built to work and to hold.....its called Amsterdam.............................

Author
ATLExile
Date
2006-12-21T22:44:05-06:00
ID
67179
Comment

I understand the sentiments of those in favor of the LeFleur's Lakes plan. It has been long on pretty pictures and polite assurances that the engineering is sound [The LeFleur's Lakes planners’ failure to even track the Airport Parkway project during the past decade doesn’t give me much confidence in their planning capabilities. I feel Ben Allen’s pain.] What is important to point out is that the LeFluer's Lakes plan may in fact not be feasible from an engineering standpoint, much less economic, and may likely include fatal flaws. iTodd has pointed out a few of these, and during the initial public comment period preceding work on the Corps' Environmental Impact Statement, many other potentially fatal flaws were listed. Whether by political design or lack of vision, the current study looks at no alternatives other than two lakes or an outdated levee plan. I fear neither of these adequately addresses flooding and only the former includes economic development in its core planning. We have effectively put all our eggs in one basket, and may be left with a fool’s choice between getting behind a flawed LeFluer’s Lakes plan and finding ourselves back at square one after 30 years. I don’t envy the Jackson City Council on their choice. The vision of a Greenway, described eloquently by iTodd in this thread, would provide a great alternative for economic development for the Jackson Metro area. However, it is not (to my knowledge) included in any alternative being studied (though it should be based upon public comments during the EIS). Nor does there appear to be any real effort to address issues regarding upstream control options; changes in development patterns in the Pearl River basin since 1979 that will amplify flood events; the fact the LeFleur's Lakes proponents discuss only a “reduction” of a 100 year flood when 1979 was probably a 500 year event, etc… We’ll have to wait and see what the draft Environmental Impact Statement concludes and then be prepared to head back to the drawing board. [By the way, the word “draft” has also been dropped from the discussion of the EIS due from the Corps in January. The LeFluer’s Lakes plan is close to 8 years behind the Parkway at this point (barring lawsuits which are likely certain if the LeFluer’s Lakes plan is to move forward) so it is disingenuous at best to try to blame the Jackson City Council for “killing” LeFluer’s Lakes if they vote for a project that that is ready to build.]

Author
pjiv
Date
2006-12-24T14:32:41-06:00
ID
67180
Comment

Someone upthread compared the Two Lakes plan to San Antonio, and I hear that alot. And, lord, people, have y'all been to the San Antonio "Riverwalk"? It's a 6 ft deep creek, that's what, 8 ft wide or so? They drain it every January to clean it out and have the Mud Parade. This is NOT the PEARL RIVER, which drains a huge portion of Mississippi. Unless we have an annual parade where we DRAIN THE RIVER that I've somehow missed in the past 42 years. Y'all want to do the "River" Walk, let's do that with Town Creek. Because that's more equivalent. Although, remember, San Antonio gets way less rain than we do, so any water management is going to be different.

Author
kate
Date
2006-12-24T15:09:20-06:00
ID
67181
Comment

Town Creek could use the facelift, lord knows... pjiv: Good Points.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2006-12-24T15:59:15-06:00

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