Monticello Mayor: Pearl River flood plan progress encouraging

Published 2:40 pm Saturday, June 15, 2024

MONTICELLO — United States Army Corps of Engineers released a 300 page report on the Pearl River Flood Risk Mitigation Plan Friday. In summary, the report deals a blow to proponents of a “One Lake,” project in Jackson while stating more planning is needed. Monticello will host a public comment meeting on July 11. 

While the report was lengthy, only a few pages of the 300 discussed the downstream effects of any flood mitigation work. Monticello Mayor Martha Watts issued an initial statement in response Friday saying the city was opposed to any further alterations of the river. 

“I am somewhat encouraged that this study appears to be complete in realizing the environmental aspect, wetlands concerns, and the aquatic and wildlife needs,” Watts said. “I feel it falls short on downstream repercussions – downstream as in much further south than Rankin/Hinds counties. We want to know that our water levels will remain sufficient for our needs.”

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Watts said Friday she was glad to see the conversation about the Pearl River get to this point. She came into office in 2017 and in January of 2018 they began the battle against the “one lake” project

Monticello’s Mayor said they are ready to find a resolution for the issue. Over the past few years, the battle has lingered over the heads of downstream community leaders. 

“From what I’ve read so far it will be more favorable to us,” Watts said. “They mention downstream studies and I would hope the watershed plan would be activated prior to anything they do upstream. We don’t want any changes to the river unless they can make it better.” 

Alternative CTO

In a letter released Wednesday, the USACE Vicksburg District Commander Christopher Klein stated the alternative combination thereof could be the best plan for the Pearl River Flood Mitigation. Alternative CTO includes parts of Alternative A1, reduced excavation of the main river channel, federal levee improvements, new weir and fish ladder, utilization of existing weir, levees, countermeasures for bridges and a year round recreational lake among others to make a new plan.

Watts said the CTO plan may be the best combination of plans for the downstream communities. 

“I’m encouraged that the corps added another alternate. It is not just one plan,” Watts said. “It is a combination of plans and that is what it will take. What it ends up looking like is another thing.” 

Downstream communities

The letter referenced the public comment from downstream communities in the project planning evaluation. The letter points out several considerations being made for downstream communities. 

First, the letter states a comprehensive watershed study would be beneficial. The letter recommends increased monitoring of the Pearl River. 

The letter states CTO would have some impact on downstream communities. Alternatives CTO “showed a reduction in flooding, consistent with Alternative C (similar flows downstream of project though different project features).” 

For reference, the letter states Alternative C would have impacts downstream due to “increased channel conveyance.” 

However, major downstream effects beyond Monticello are “highly unlikely,” the letter states. 

“Upon selection of the final project features and design, comprehensive downstream analysis will be completed and available to the public.” 

Public comment period

During the review period, USACE will conduct public meetings to receive feedback and accept comments from the public on the DEIS.

A virtual meeting is tentatively scheduled for the week of June 24, 2024. Specific details regarding this meeting will be posted on the USACE Vicksburg page as soon as they are available.

In-person public meetings are scheduled as follows:

  • Wednesday, July 10 – 2:00PM – Mississippi Public Broadcasting Auditorium, 3825 Ridgewood Road, Jackson, MS 39211
  • Wednesday, July 10 – 6:00PM – Mississippi Trade Mart, 1200 Mississippi St, Jackson, MS 39202
  • Thursday, July 11 – 11:00AM – Slidell Municipal Auditorium, 2056 2nd Street, Slidell, LA 70458
  • Thursday, July 11 – 6:00PM – Monticello Civic Center, 125 E Broad Street, Monticello, MS

Watts encouraged people in the area around Monticello and Lawrence County to attend the public meeting on July 11. Usually, the corps presents the alternates and what they involve before listening to public comments. 

“They will listen to our concerns. We all have problems with bank loss. Please attend,” Watts said. “This is a very passionate subject for those on the river. I ask you to please remain calm, state your issue and ask your questions but keep your temper in check and be civil. They are here to help everyone.” 

She added the USACE has to resolve flooding problems upstream and low water problems downstream. Public comments can be submitted via email to Letters can be sent to the USACE at Mr. Eric Williams; Chief, Environmental Branch U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Regional Planning and Environmental Division South CEMVN-PDS, 7400 Leake Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70118 in a 45 day public comment period.