The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is moving forward in finding a solution for flood control in Jackson and will hold two public meetings in the city on Wednesday to present new details and listen to residents.
The Corps put out an update last week indicating that a new environmental impact study is in the works. In the new study, the federal agency will compare several flood control options, including the highly-debated “One Lake” project.
It’s the latest step in a decades-long effort to shore up flooding from the Pearl River in the capital city.
For years, a local sponsor — the Rankin Hinds Flood & Drainage Control District — has pushed One Lake, a proposal that would widen the river for about nine miles between Jackson and Rankin County and add recreational areas for residents. The proposal’s backers suggest it would reduce flood risk by giving the river more room to flow and by bolstering levees along the edges.
The Corps will also look at other alternatives, however, including buy-outs for the 3,000 structures in the flood plain, as well as elevation and other flood-proofing measures. The agency’s release said that the Corps may also consider hybrids of the alternatives and One Lake.
The agency is expecting a draft of the study to be released for public comment in September. After a 45-day public review period, the Corps will incorporate feedback into a final study. Once the final study is finished, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works will take at least 30 days to make a decision on the project proposal.
The two public meetings will be on Wednesday, May 24, at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., both at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum at 1150 Lakeland Drive in Jackson.
Last fall, the Army Corps pledged $221 million to the project, contingent on its approval. The flood district’s attorney, Keith Turner, said at the time that One Lake is estimated to cost $340 million.
Ever since the district first announced the plan in 2011, criticisms from Republicans and Democrats, officials in Mississippi and Louisiana — where the Pearl River flows into Lake Borgne and then into the Gulf of Mexico — and environmental experts and advocates nationwide have plagued the project. Opponents argue One Lake would threaten species listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, valuable wetlands, and interrupt water flow to communities downstream.
The Corps’ upcoming study will look at any adverse environmental impacts and weigh it against the flood control benefits provided by the project. One Lake, the agency noted, would convert 2,069 acres of terrestrial habitat into aquatic habitat, and also impact about 1,861 acres of wetlands and “other waters of the U.S.”
Correction 5/24/23: This story has been corrected to note that opponents argue One Lake would threaten species listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.