Public meetings on One Lake Project start on Tuesday

The first of three public hearings on the controversial One Lake Project begins tomorrow in Jackson. The project, spearheaded by the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood & Drainage Control District, has caused many local governments and entities in Mississippi and Louisiana as well as the state of Louisiana legislature to come out formally against the project.

The first of three hearings is tomorrow (Tuesday July 24) in Jackson at the Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum’s Sparkman Auditorium on 1150 Lakeland Drive at 6:00pm. The second meeting is set for August 2 at the Infinity Science Center just south of Stennis Space Center just off I-10 near Pearlington. The final public meeting will be on August 16th in Slidell at the Municipal Auditorium on 2nd Street.

The price tag for One Lake is approximately $340 million dollars and the project is a long way from a done deal, but a decision could be made by federal officials by the end of the year on whether it will gain final approval. The Army Corps of Engineers has yet to give final approval to the One Lake Project. The Department of Environmental Quality has been briefed on the project, but hasn't approved it.

Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District spokesman Greg Raimondo recently said the Corps' job is to help guide the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood & Drainage Control District through the approval process, but Raimondo said the St. Louis and Sacramento offices are the ones overseeing the effort

The One Lake plan, which can trace its winding roots back to the historic 1979 Easter flood, calls for widening the Pearl River south of the Ross Barnett Reservoir to below Jackson.

Opponents say there are less disruptive flood control options. One Lake construction would mean dredging to widen the Pearl River, impounding 1,500 water acres with a new weir or low-head dam, and filling 1,000 acres of wetlands, which opponents say would remove seven miles of habitat for two federally protected species: Gulf sturgeon and the ringed sawback turtle.

The nonprofit Pearl Riverkeeper, which advocates for the health of the Pearl River Basin, said the One Lake Project potentially could negatively impact the state's $891 million-a-year seafood industry.

Proponents say that wouldn't happen because the project would have to meet minimum outflow levels with emergency gates to the weir to ensure those levels are maintained, even in extreme drought conditions.

Here locally, the biggest fear is even less water will make it’s way down the Pearl to Bogalusa, Walkiah Bluff, and the lower portions of the Pearl River that currently has three problems that need to be address by the state and federal governments as well as the Corp of Engineers to allow safer use of the Pearl River from Bogalusa.

Problem number one is the failed diversion at Wilson Slough, we will have a report on that project tomorrow.

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