A vote this week by the Rankin-Hinds Pearl Flood and Drainage Control District ("Levee Board") appeared to overturn its decision of last July to support a "Lower Lake" plan based, in part, on the Levee Board-sponsored charrette featuring noted architect and city planner Andres Duany and his company, DPZ. We feel that's unfortunate, and hope the Lower Lake plan, if viable and responsible, will still be considered in the future.
More importantly, this vote shows it's past time for developer John McGowan, an ardent supporter of his own "Two Lakes" plan for the past decade or more, to recognize that his continued tinkering is more of a hindrance than a help. His proposals have been studied, discussed, exposed to the charrette process and voted on. In nearly every case, the "Two Lakes" plan has been turned down.
The Army Corps of Engineers wants to build a "comprehensive" system of levees, which means federal dollars will help make it happen. The Lower Lake plan would flood the river south of I-20, thus creating a lake that backs up to Lakeland Drive and that should offer additional flood management features. In dredging the river, two small islands would be formed for development.
Here are the next steps we'd like to see in this project:
1. It's time to stop wrangling over "Two Lakes" and move ahead.
2. Voting for levees now doesn't appear to kill the Lower Lake plan later. Assuming it works from an environmental point of view and saves Lefleur's Bluff State Park, we'd like to see the Lower Lake plan remain on the table.
3. As part of the levee solution, we believe the river (from spillway to Byram) should be enhanced with a Metro greenway project. Paths, parks and other inexpensive flood-proof amenities could give all citizens access to the Pearl while connecting bikers and hikers to Ridgeland's trail system and on up to the Natchez Trace.
Greenways are the 21st century solutionthey buffer development in the flood zone, enhance property values, improve quality of life and offer a "Let's Go Walking" option for healthy living in an urban environment. A greenway along the Pearl would be a huge "creative class" development draw, particularly if it offered access to the river for hiking, biking, picnics, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, transportation and other recreation. A greenway would be a great investment both for quality of life and for future economic development.
Metro residents should let go of the idea of Two Lakes and focus on controlling floods while making the existing stretch of the Pearl in Jackson a resource for citizens and a recruiting tool for future growth. Call your representatives and let them know you support levees, a greenway and responsible flood control.