Four months after it was submitted, the One Lake flood control plan is still being reviewed by the U.S. Secretary of the Army.
“We’ve had multiple calls and discussions and are still answering questions,” said Keith Turner, attorney for the Rankin-Hinds flood control district. “That should go on for several more weeks.”
The current review is one of the final steps in what has been a long process in getting One Lake approved. Once the secretary finishes, it will be submitted to several agencies for a final review, and then released for public comment.
These agencies include the Environmental Protection Agency, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. Other environmental agencies will have another chance to look at the documents. “Then, the final environmental impact statement will go out for a final, 30-day public comment period,” Turner said.
One Lake includes the creation of a 1,500-acre lake along the Pearl River, from north of Lakeland Drive to south of I-20 near Richland. To build the lake, a weir near the waterworks curve in Jackson would be removed and a new one added south of I-20. The project would cost approximately $355 million to construct. That amount includes the funds needed to purchase right-of-way for the work. Some of the property needed is already owned by the Rankin-Hinds district, as well as the state.
The lake is designed to reduce flooding from the Pearl by helping move water downstream in the event of heavy rainfalls. The lake would result in thousands of acres of new waterfront property, which could be used for economic development or recreational use.
One Lake was designed by Northside businessman John McGowan, with plans being drawn up by Mendrop Engineering Resources. It is being sponsored by the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District.
The plan has been subjected to a grueling review process. Plans initially had to be submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Vicksburg District office for review. After the agency determined it would work hydraulically, the plan was submitted to a second Corps office outside of the area for an independent review.
The corps must sign off on the project, because it would affect a body of water that is part of the Waters of the U.S.
The review process is spelled out in the 2007 Water Resources Development Act, which authorized $133 million in federal funding to help construct it. Due to inflation, the amount authorized for the project has been increased to around $200 million, Turner said.
One Lake is not without critics. Some environmental groups claim the project would have a negative impact on the Gulf sturgeon and the ringed map turtle, two federally endangered species.
Last fall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a report saying the lake would have a minimal impact on those species but recommended several steps to mitigate the losses that would occur.
Additionally, some communities downstream are worried that the lake would reduce water flow along the Pearl, something that supporters of One Lake refute.