Concern downriver grows as Pearl River dam project continues

Concern downriver grows as Pearl River dam project continues

SLIDELL, LA (WVUE) - A project along the Mississippi River may mean disaster for some in Louisiana.

The Pearl River dam project would create a dam upriver in Mississippi to help alleviate flooding risks in Jackson, Mississippi. But local business owners say the project would not only kill Louisiana swamp life, but also their businesses.

A meeting tonight intended to collect public comment on the Pearl River Dam project was somewhat ill- received

The $345 million project would construct a dam upriver in Mississippi to help mitigate flooding risks in Jackson, Mississippi. Rankin-Hinds leaders pointed to a couple of major flooding incidents in 1979 and 1983 as examples. But Louisiana residents say it's a project that comes at a cost to those downriver.

Paul Trahan runs swamp tours along the Pearl River. He's been strongly against the plan saying if the dam is built it will be damning for his business. Trahan fears saltwater will intrude into the freshwater swamps.

"It's one of the few areas in Louisiana that's still untouched because it's in good hands; its protected… it is going to die, it's just a matter of time once that saltwater gets to it is the demise of the Honey Water Swamp as we know it," said Trahan.

State Senator Sharon Hewitt helped coordinate tonight's meeting. She's heard the concerns from citizens and says Mississippi and Louisiana leaders should have come together on this issue a long time ago. The project crosses state lines, but Hewitt says when it comes to a river they can't legislate like that.

"We want the river to be managed as an entire system not just the Pearl, but all the rivers on the Mississippi need to be managed as a system because we can't have one parish or one state doing something upriver that negatively impacts us down river," said Hewitt.

Leaders with the project say working across state lines is something they're willing to do. Attorney with the project, Keith Turner says their goal is to address Louisianans' concerns, but admits it's been difficult to meet in the middle.

"We have to find that balance to explain to folks that our project can be constructed without causing impact or hardship to the folks downriver," said Turner.

Turner says it's impossible to tell what decisions Mississippi leaders may make in the future.

"I can't speak to what may or may not happen, and where people go. We think we have a project that works for flood control that doesn't create problems downstream; whether we can get to a point where everyone's comfortable we're working to that direction," said Turner.

Public comment will be accepted until September 6th.

Written comments can be mailed to:

Rankin Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District, P.O. Box 320790,

Flowood, MS 39232

Or emailed to: rankinhinds@gmail.com

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