It appears that Rep. Bennie Thompson has come out against the One Lake Project, a proposal he previously supported. Here is the text of a press release issued today:
JACKSON, Miss. – Today marks the public comment deadline on the Integrated Draft Feasibility and Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the ill-conceived, destructive project locally known as “One Lake”.
After hearing from many of his constituents, long-time U.S. Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (D-02), whose District the project resides in, and will allegedly benefit, has weighed in to express “grave concerns” regarding “this highly controversial project”. In a letter to Major General Richard Kaiser, Commander of the Mississippi Valley Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), Congressman Thompson outlines “a multitude of serious, unresolved economic and environmental issues that demonstrate its fiscal imprudence and destructive nature.” [See attached letters.]
Congressman Thompson further states, the project’s local sponsor, the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District (Drainage District) “is not fully complying with federal law” as his reasoning to “strongly object to One Lake and urge the Corps to reject this project.”
Congressman Thompson cites his “objection is supported by, but not limited to, the following issues”:
Lack of Compliance with Federal Laws
Inadequate Opportunity for Meaningful Public Review
Unacceptable Public Health and Safety Impacts
Unacceptable Environmental Harm
Unacceptable Costs to Taxpayers and Economic Harm
In separate letters addressed to the Vicksburg Corps and the Drainage District, Congressman Thompson requests answers to 54 questions regarding the project on topics ranging from:
“What are the number of homes and businesses that will be flood-free because of this project, versus those that will only have a reduction in flood stage?”
“[W]hat would be the estimated annual ad valorem tax increase per affected property owner in Hinds and Rankin Counties?”
“Identify property owners who own property in the project footprint, or property that could benefit from the project (i.e. for example, property that would become lake “waterfront”, or be filled so that the property would no longer be in the floodplain and could be more readily developed)...”
“Is there a contaminated creosote site in the project area and what is the projected clean-up cost that will be at tax-payers’ expense?”
“Do any federal, state or local elected officials or any of their direct relatives own property in the project area, or hold any pecuniary interest in the project?”
Congressman Thompson is no stranger to the issue of Pearl River flood control having served as president of the Hinds County Supervisors when the dubious Shoccoe Dam project was proposed – and rejected - in the 1980's.
“Then as now, these projects are little more than private real estate development schemes, financed at taxpayer’s expense, and masquerading as flood control,” stated Louie Miller, State Director of the Mississippi Sierra Club.
Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made a stunning conclusion in their assessment of the DEIS; that One Lake “is the most environmentally damaging plan” and that the Drainage District should be required to produce a second draft DEIS that would provide “greater details regarding plan formulation, design, operation, mitigation, and adaptive management” before the project advances.
“This confirms what we have been saying all along, this document is sloppy, incomplete, and scientifically unsound,” stated Jill Mastrototaro, Policy Director for Audubon Mississippi.
In addition, 56 national, state and local businesses and public interest organizations representing millions of members and supporters, have signed onto letters expressing stern opposition to this questionable project.
Opposition to One Lake spans a wide range of organizations and interests - from the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce and nature tour businesses to conservation groups and the recreational-commercial fishing sector to local counties, parishes, and cities, and state natural resource agencies.
“The mounting opposition against One Lake speaks volumes,” stated Andrew Whitehurst, Water Program Director for Gulf Restoration Network. “This project embodies the short-sighted, enrichment of a few at the expense of our precious natural resources, regional economy, and affected communities.”