Vet The New Lake 255 Plan | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Vet The New Lake 255 Plan

After more than a decade, the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District Levee Board came to a tentative compromise on a lake plan that does not appear to be in opposition to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' preferred plan to expand Pearl River levees.

What's astounding about the venture is the lack of immediate resistance from advocates of a popular plan to create a massive lake spanning from the Interstate 20 overpass to the bottom of the Spillway dam. Jackson oilman John McGowan has long incessantly lobbied the Levee Board to adopt his levee-less lake plan for flood control, despite the legal problems inherent in trying to inundate the Pearl River wetlands. Waggoner Engineering Project Manager Barry Royals was brave enough to claim that the McGowan people were onboard with the flood control offered by the small lake—and by the gods, the earth did not crack open beneath his feet and devour him.

Dare we hope that we have at last achieved some common ground after all this time?

It's clear that many Jackson residents find the McGowan plan attractive, but if it moves forward, environmentalists will doubtless descend upon the project and, in the words of one big lake opponent, "eat our lunch." But with this vote on a resolution, the Levee Board has approved a smaller lake plan that theoretically occupies only the channelized area of the Pearl and leaves the northern wetlands and park grounds of Mayes Lake untouched, perhaps pleasing some environmentalists and their lawyers.

The same plan also allows the Corps to have the levees that Corps Project Management Chief Doug Kamien has personally demanded (levees that possibly cut through Mayes Lake, by the way).

The plan appears viable, at least at the outset. Now it's time to call on professionals to painstakingly fact-check the thing and tell us if the lake 255 plan really holds water, so to speak. And we can't have people on the payroll of those either for or vehemently against a lake counting the numbers. This is the part where we need intensely boring, non-political, objective people with the mind-numbing skills it takes to vet this thing. The agreement looks feasible—but throwing our whole-hearted support behind the project at this stage could be premature as wholesale support of Two Lakes was.

This is a time where serious consideration by the Corps could prove useful. The federal government has a process in place to look beyond the glamour and glitz of the ribbon-cutting to truly see if this thing could work. But to do that, we first need the Corps to take the project seriously enough to give it scrutiny, instead of writing it off as just another troublesome alternative to their levee-only plan.

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