by Calvin Ishee
Tuesday, May 22nd a consortium of concerned citizens and advocacy groups gathered at the West Side Community Center in Gulfport to hear the latest from Andrew Whitehurst the Water Program Director for the Gulf Coast Restoration Network with the One River-No Lake Coalition, regarding the status of the “One Lake” Project. The primary focus of this $205.8 million dollar project is to build a dam that ostensibly helps with occasional flooding in the Jackson area. Although the last major flood was 35 years ago in 1983, the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District as well as the Pearl River Vision Foundation are advocating for this project which includes building a dam on the Pearl River and creating a lake in the Jackson area. Additionally there is interest by local developers with the potential for waterfront development opportunities. Why should this concern Gulf Coast and more specifically Pass Christian residents? According to the One River-No Lake Coalition, there are many reasons for local concerns and opposition to the One Lake Project. Most important to Pass Christian is the potentially huge negative impact to the already challenged oyster industry. Oysters need a specific range of fresh and salt water to effectively flourish in coastal waters. A reduction in downstream fresh water threatens the balance needed for having successful oyster seasons. Furthermore Mississippi taxpayers will have to come up with $72 million dollars to fund its share of this massive project. There are at least four other potentially viable options that comply with federal laws however, the push for the One Lake option continues. In the coming months an environmental impact study will be completed and opened for public comment. Even though congress has already approved this project, congress nor the Mississippi legislature has allocated funding. In the coming months proponents and opponents alike will be working diligently to garner support for their efforts. There are still far too many unanswered questions regarding the potential negative impact of the One Lake projects. Gulf Coast residents must realize that what happens “up stream” can have a major impact on them, good or bad.