From new islands to waterfront property, the One Lake Project promises to create new economic and recreational opportunities for the entire metro area.
However, exactly how that land will be made available remains to be seen.
Keith Turner, attorney for the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District (levee board) said it’s too early to know and is more focused on getting the project constructed.
The levee board is the project’s local sponsor.
“It’s too early to tell how that will unfold,” Turner said. “The board will have to decide the best method and approach.”
One Lake includes constructing a roughly 1,500-acre lake on the Pearl River from north of Lakeland Drive to south of I-20 near Richland.
The $355 million project is designed for flood control, but will come with the added benefits of creating new land for economic development, recreation and wildlife reserves.
Hundreds of acres of new waterfront property will be created behind the levees, from materials dredged from the river.
That property, in turn, will be made available for new development in Jackson and Rankin County.
Whether that land will be sold or leased to potential developers has not been determined.
Leasing could be an option for the levee board, which will need a new revenue stream to maintain the lake once it’s built.
The levee board is responsible for maintaining the current levee system and pays for that maintenance with an assessment on property owners within the district.
According to a report recently released by the levee board, the One Lake project will carry an annual price tag of approximately $13.9 million.
That amount includes $13.2 million for debt service and $650,000 for operations and maintenance.
Current revenues for the levee district were not available at press time.
The Pearl River Valley Water Supply District (PRV), which oversees the Ross Barnett Reservoir, generates annual revenues through long-term leases.
Monies from leases go into the agency’s general fund, which are then used to maintain parks, repair boat ramps, pay the Reservoir Patrol and the like.
“PRV is a special fund agency, meaning we get no money from the state,” said PRV General Manager John Sigman. “We have 6,000 leases and that’s how we fund repairs.”
Leases are for 60 years and include cost of living increases every five years. The leases generate about $6 million a year.
Sigman said the PRV’s funding structure does have challenges. Among them, revenue growth is limited by the amount of available land.
“We have 50,000 acres – 33,000 under water, 2,000 acres (that are) parks, 10,000 acres of timber, and 4,000 acres of commercial and residential development,” he said.
PRV has several thousand acres still available, but land suitable for development is “dwindling rapidly.”
Turner said the levee board will likely be responsible for operating the river, maintaining the levees and the weir, while activities associated with development could fall to the cities.
Lakefront property will be located in Jackson, Flowood, Pearl and Richland.
“Those entities will be responsible for developing, maintaining (and) policing the properties,” he said. “The reservoir has its own police force. We’re not going to have any of it.”
He said land uses will likely be determined by the cities through the development of a master plan.
In all, about 1,900 acres are needed for the development.
Fifty percent of that is held by the state or local governments, while the remaining acreage is divided among 40 to 50 owners, Turner said.
Northside businessman John McGowan, creator of One Lake, owns about 400 acres in the project area, which he plans to donate to the district to make way for the construction.
Owners will be required to vacate not only the property that will be under water, but the potential shoreline as well.
“We will acquire everything, where the water is going to be, where we’re going to put the soil. All the waterfront shoreline will be acquired,” he said. “It wouldn’t be fair that (current owners) would get to benefit from a project (that is being paid for) by taxpayers.”