In recent months, the Jackson Free Press was pleased to see the Rankin-Hinds Levee Board seemingly get unlocked from the years-long Lakes-v.-Levees standoff that had prevented any forward movement toward flood control along the Pearl River and, with any luck, some smart and green economic development thrown in, to boot.
We liked that members of the Levee Board went to Washington, D.C., to ask our congressional delegation to prod the U.S. Corps of Engineers to consider studying at least one alternative to simple levee expansion, which the Corps adopted last year as the quickest, cheapest and least environmentally hazardous flood-control option. We were also pleased to see that the Corps agreed last month to study the "one lake" plan developed by Waggoner Engineering that could provide a more manageable compromise between the two extremes of expanded levees and John McGowan's overly ambitious (and environmentally disturbing) "Two Lakes" plan.
We realize that both the locals and the feds must come up with the funds for the Corps to study the one-lake plan, and we are still dismayed that all of the years of wrangling did not yield other possible smart basin-wide solutions that could and should also be on the table now. But the Levee Board's effort to reach out to the Corps, and the Corps' positive response, is a step forward, regardless of what the study ultimately reveals.
However, we are disappointed to see that some folks want to keep the Lakes-v.-Levees standoff going. Recently, an article in The Northside Sun stated that the one-lake plan would not include levees, thus opening the door for McGowan's second lake to be added above Lakeland Drive at a later date. Beyond the fact that the wetlands will still be there, making this idea preposterous, this was the first we've—or many people—had heard that Two Lakes supporters thought the one-lake plan definitely meant no levees. No one we can find has said that, and McGowan's spokesman confirmed this week that no one had told them that. It was a hopeful assumption, it seems.
After we reported on this confusion last week, McGowan showed up at the Levee Board complaining that the one-lake plan did not replace levees (thus, we're guessing, leaving the door open for his Two Lakes, which cannot exist with expanded levees). We wonder how the Levee Board, or the Corps, could possibly know that one lake would provide enough flood control without levee additions—without studying it. But McGowan now promises that it will provide as much protection as Two Lakes (presenting the question of why we would ever need two lakes), and the Levee Board is supposed to demand a lake without levees based on his calculation alone.
Meantime, McGowan seems to want to return the debate to lakes-v.-levees, us-v.-them with the Corps—a place we do not need to be again. We may well end up with a combination of a lake and stronger levees; at this point, the more flood control possibilities on the table, the better.
See http://www.jfp.ms/pearlriver for the JFP's award-winning coverage of this issue.