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Plans to build dam on Pearl River getting strong opposition from Louisiana

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A plan to build a dam on a river in Mississippi and create a lake is drawing fierce opposition.

Proponents of damming the Pearl River say the aim is to prevent flooding in the Jackson, Mississippi, area.

Some of the strongest objections are coming from Louisiana, The New Orleans Advocate reported .

Environmental groups, commercial and recreational fishermen, and people who live in the lower part of the Pearl River basin fear the consequences of reducing the river’s flow in Louisiana in places such as the Honey Island Swamp in St. Tammany Parish.

“It’s been pitched as flood control, but there are other options (to do that) that could be considered. We believe it’s more of a development opportunity at our expense,” said Louisiana state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, a Republican from Slidell.

Creating the lake would also create lots of waterfront property, the newspaper reported.

The dam project was authorized by Congress in the 2007 Water Resources Development Act. But no money has yet been appropriated for the $205 million project.

Unlike typical federal projects, this one is not sponsored by the Army Corps of Engineers but instead has a local sponsor, the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood Control and Drainage District.

An attorney for that district did not return a phone call and email from The Advocate.

Opponents have been waiting for the draft environmental impact statement on the project, which was expected last winter. But Andrew Whitehurst, the water program director for the Gulf Restoration Network, said the project’s sponsors now say that it will be published in June.

Once the draft environmental impact statement is published, the sponsor will have to hold three public hearings — in Jackson, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in St. Tammany Parish, Whitehurst said.

But opponents aren’t waiting for that document. The Gulf Restoration Network held a community meeting recently in Gulfport, Mississippi, that drew only a few participants, but Whitehurst said they represented important interests, including fishing industry lobbyists, lawmakers and the Sierra Club.


Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, http://www.neworleansadvocate.com