Monday, August 9, 2010
Mississippi's two U.S. senators and Jackson metro members of Congree sent an Aug. 5 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, urging the Corps to include a small lake design in its preferred levees-only plan. The proposed "one lake" plan would not flood valuable wetlands north of Lakeland Drive.
Republican U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, Republican U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper and Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson signed the letter to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army of Civil Works division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"We are pleased that the levee board has made this decision (on the Lake 255 design)," the letter states. "However, we understand that in order to finalize the pre-construction phase, the Vicksburg District of the United States Army Corps of Engineers must complete the formulation process by resuming the terminated feasibility study, with the addition of the locally preferred one lake plan, and completing said study report."
The letter urges the Corps to follow the flood-control plan, featuring Lake 255, with an environmental impact statement and a third-party review by a Corps affiliate division. The process also includes a study of the technical feasibility of the plan and the scrutiny of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The letter comes after some members of the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District Board took a trip to Washington, D.C., last month to meet with the Mississippi delegation.
"(Mississippi Legislators) are not ready to move unless we're together. Now that we have voted together they are really anxious to help us," said Leland Speed, one of the Levee Board members who visited to Mississippi legislators in the House Appropriations Committee chamber last month. "I was pleased with the tone of the meeting."
Levee Board members decided to lobby state senators and representatives after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shot down the board's attempt to marry the Corps' proposed levee expansion with a smaller lake project to promote lakeside real-estate development.
Corps of Engineers Col. Jeffrey Eckstein told board members in a June letter that the Corps would not resume any further study of flood control along the Pearl River "for the purpose of considering any impoundment alternatives or private development features."
Waggoner Engineering Inc. project engineer Barry Royals said he believed the updated plan stood a better chance of Corps approval because it only floods a section of the Pearl River. Board members approved the smaller Lake 255 because the federal government is not likely to allow a lake plan that inundates wetlands containing endangered species, such as the native ringed map turtle.
The project has an estimated cost of about $600 million, although the cost could either shrink or increase as a numerous federal agencies vet it. The levee board upgraded the Lake 255 plan last month to extend the lake beyond an unused landfill on the Hinds County side of the river, which could hike project costs.
Royals could not offer an estimate on the cost to remove the landfill, which could bottleneck flood control as well as stifle some development on the Jackson side of the river.
Big Money Talks. "Hrumph, Hrumph, hurumphhhh!" clarification please on this paragraph: "Board members approved the smaller Lake 255 because the federal government would is likely allow a lake plan that inundates wetlands containing endangered species, such as the native ringed map turtle." huh?
Good point, nolalamb. That's a bad error. It should read: "Board members approved the smaller Lake 255 because the federal government is not likely to allow a lake plan that inundates wetlands containing endangered species, such as the native ringed map turtle." We apologize, and I'm fixing it above in the story.