U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Senior Project Manager Gary Walker assured the local levee board this morning that the Corps will consider a smaller, one-lake plan in an upcoming feasibility study.
"The Corps has begun updating the project management plan and preparing a new feasibility cost-sharing agreement, which is necessary for the study to continue," Walker told the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District levee board.
For years, the levee board has advocated for flood control along the Pearl River to include recreational use, but the Vicksburg District of the Army Corps of Engineers has favored a levees-only form of flood control, and said earlier this year that it would not include a new lake because of the environmental impact of permanently flooding the wetland area surrounding the Pearl.
The Corps had previously terminated the one-lake flood control effort because the levee board had not agreed to the Corps-endorsed levee plan. Today, however, Walker informed the board that a flood-control study was again underway, and that the study would consider a small lake near downtown Jackson.
The project manager said the Corps was already working to assemble a project management plan, which would outline the process of studying flood control, as well as the costs for a small lake and levee combination plan, which could cost up to $605 million as Waggoner Engineering predicted earlier this year. The cost would most likely be shared between local taxpayers and the federal government, which would cover half the expenses.
"This is some of the best news I heard since I got on the board," said Richland Mayor and levee board member Mark Scarborough, who expressed irritation earlier this year at the Corps decision to abandon the flood-control study.
Walker's visit followed a Nov. 22 meeting in Vicksburg between representatives of the Corps and the levee board at which the Corps committed to resuming the flood-control study containing a possible lake. On Aug. 5 Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy sent a letter to members of the Mississippi Congressional delegation assuring them that the Corps would resume the study with the local levee board. Fueling Darcy's August letter was the state delegation's decision to pressure the Corps to re-commit to the study and include a lake in its deliberations.
Walker said the Corps changed its opinion because it had based its earlier determination on an earlier lake plan.
"The one-lake plan was never studied in detail. We've used some existing data from what we developed from the LeFleur Lake plan (also called "Two-Lakes") and applied it to one-lake. Based upon that comparison, it has a very significant impact compared to the levee plan," Walker said, adding that the smaller one-lake plan appears to occupy a channelized section of the river, which is no longer pristine.
The Corps determined that the LeFleur Lake plan--which entails a massive lake flooding of about 7,000 acres that would include Mayes Lake--would cost up to $1.4 billion after environmental mitigation and levee installation. Lake advocate John McGowan, who has long championed the plan, said it should have cost nowhere near $1.4 billion, and argued that many of the Corps' additions were unnecessary.
The Corps reminded the board, however, that despite one lake's smaller environmental footprint, any lake plan still will have to survive a federal feasibility process, and it might not make it.
"As detailed in previous correspondence, any plan recommended will have to meet a number of requirements to include environmental acceptability," the Corps wrote, adding that the Corps has already determined that the levee plan is the best plan.
For in depth coverage on flood control, visit the JFP's Pearl River Archive.