Ever since the massive Easter Flood of 1979, when the Pearl River rose and displaced 17,000 residents and caused $500 million in damage, the fear of another "big one" has loomed over Jackson. But the answer hasn't been easy to come by, as many Jackson residents don't want to pay for flood-control measures without a requisite economic-development benefit, while others are very worried both about the feasibility and environmental impact of flood-control options that have been floating, pardon the pun.
The JFP fell into the middle of this story, which in many ways was an old-school vs. creative class debate over how a river should be managed. You could almost boil it down to those who preferred motorboats versus those who like (at least the idea of) canoeing, who preferred a more natural solution, ideally offering trails and more public green space. For the longest time, and disingenuously, the flood-control debate was cast as a Lakes-vs.-levees debate with no possible compromise, and with no media scrutiny of which plans were actually feasible and affordable.
Enter the JFP. What we call our "Two Lakes coverage" wasn't popular to all, especially in the development community, but we helped educate the public about the plans, as well as some unreported donations to mayoral candidates by major players. We also exposed who owned what land along the Two Lakes "footprint" and who was set to financially benefit. We also called for the end of the false binary choice that Jacksonians had to support a huge, costly and unlikely Two Lakes project or settle for ugly-ass levees.
After intense reporting (and southeastern and national public-service awards), we got our wish when the Levee Board announced that the Pearl River Vision Foundation is financing the study of a scaled-back one-lake project that, hopefully, will provide flood control and economic development for a lower cost and decreased environmental impact.