Gulf Restoration Network held its fourth annual “Jackson for A Healthy Gulf” event at Hal and Mal’s Restaurant in the Capitol City last Thursday night. Despite a cold front moving through Jackson, with rain and bad traffic near party time, twenty-five people attended to hear about GRN’s Mississippi work over the last year. I summarized legal victories on two of GRN’s issues: the appeal of the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) Oil and Gas Leasing and Exploration Rules, and the settlement of GRN’s Hattiesburg Leaf River sewer lagoon lawsuit. I also explained that in 2014, for the first time in years, contrary to normal practice, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Permit Board was responsive to GRN’s comments requesting additional monitoring for fecal coliform bacteria on a Kemper Power Plant water discharge permit. MDEQ usually requires a formal appeal to consider any permit modifications.
In June we expect that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Feasibility Study will be published for a flood control project on the Pearl River. Jackson, Mississippi business interests and a local drainage district propose building another lake on the river as their preferred option, although levees and floodplain buyouts will also be presented in the documents. The Hal and Mal’s audience included a representative from Pearl River Vision Foundation – a group actively promoting the lake development and familiar with GRN’s objections to damming rivers. I explained that with each impoundment of the Pearl River, as the surrounding land is developed, new constituencies are created that will demand a voice in managing the river’s water. The Pearl already has the 32,000 acre Ross Barnett Reservoir on its main channel. Adding another lake and more commercial interests on the river means less regard for downstream communities and habitats when water management decisions happen. Building more lakes makes water management decisions increasingly complex on a river that is already fragmented, has serious water quality problems and clearly needs restoration. Several party guests signed a GRN petition against a lake project.
The Hal and Mal’s crowd included sales staff members from Buffalo Peak Outfitters in Jackson. The outdoor clothing and equipment store donated a hydration combo backpack to the event as a raffle item. Two beautiful framed pieces of nature art by Grenada, Mississippi watercolor painter Robin Whitfield were also part of the raffle. GRN is grateful for the donations at this year’s get-together; they added visual appeal and fun to the night.