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Town hall meetings have yet to occur

Back in July, organizers of the proposed One Lake project in Jackson promised to host town hall meetings for downstream communities on the Pearl River that are worried about the project’s impact.

Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District attorney Keith Turner said a public meeting somewhere on the middle portion of the river south of the capital would take place before mid-August, and the period for public comments on the proposal will be extended beyond the legal 45-day window that would have ended the first weekend of August. Local governments downstream from the project — particularly in Monticello and Columbia — have passed resolutions opposing the project, which aims to create a 1,500-acre lake down the Rankin-Hinds border.

“There will be ample opportunity for everyone to be heard,” Turner said. “We have received some comments requesting an extended comment period, but based on everything going on with the project we knew we would be extending it anyway. We hope to announce a new public schedule early next week.”

So far, we’ve not heard of any planned meetings in Southwest Mississippi and the deadline for the public comment period is fast approaching.

This is unacceptable. The $345 million flood control project will greatly impact communities downriver, yet those residents haven’t been provided an opportunity to ask questions and speak for or against it.

Lawrence and Marion counties stand to be affected by this project, and not just from an environmental standpoint. In Monticello, one of the biggest concerns is Georgia Pacific, which depends on the river to manufacture paper and pulp products. Any changes to the river have the potential to impact the company.

These counties deserve a public hearing on the project, and the meeting must give attendees an opportunity to provide feedback. Anything less will be a disservice to residents affected and will only lead to more public scrutiny of the effort.