The chorus of opposition among environmental advocates and downriver residents against a flood-control lake project is growing louder.
Thursday night, the St. Tammany Parish, La., council passed a resolution opposing a plan proffered by groups with ties to petroleum businessman John McGowan. Known locally as "One Lake," the flood-control plan involves damming the Pearl River to keep flooding down in the capital city and would create water-front development opportunities.
St. Tammany Parish officials are concerned about the proposed lake's effects on water levels, salinity, wetlands and wildlife.
In statement, Andrew Whitehurst, director of water policy director with the Gulf Restoration Network, said: “Combined with existing effects to the Pearl from the Ross Barnett Reservoir, a new 1,500 acre lake in the Jackson area is inevitably going to impact the flow and amount of water that reaches downstream communities like Monticello, Columbia and Pearlington in Mississippi, and Pearl River in Louisiana.
Whitehurst added: "Oyster beds and coastal marshes in both states rely on the vital fresh water that the Pearl provides and this proposed dam is a direct threat to that resource.”
The Jackson Free Press emailed Dallas Quinn, spokesman for Pearl River Vision Foundation, which McGowan created in 2011 for the purposes of completing an environmental-impact assessment that will be used as part of a federal application to proceed with flood plan, and will update the story when Quinn responds.
PRVF and the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood Control and Drainage District (Levee Board) recently held a scoping meeting in Jackson to address concerns and questions from members of the public.
The meeting was well attended, but conservation-minded attendees were disappointed with the format. Several people who spoke to the Jackson Free Press believe the meeting was designed to suppress any perceived public opposition to the plan.
Keith Turner, the Levee Board's attorney, said he believed the format was better for soliciting feedback and addressing concerns that a traditional public meeting in which individuals speak from a microphone one after the other.