Pearl River Basin flooding
The public meetings are part of the process before a plan is put in place to address continued flooding issues in and around the city of Jackson.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to hold hearings in Mississippi to gain insight as to the concerns of residents related to the Pearl River flood control efforts.
Two listening sessions took place last Wednesday at the Mississippi Agriculture Museum’s Sparkman Auditorium in Jackson. The purpose of the meetings is to provide members of the public an opportunity to learn and provide commentary about the efforts being made to reduce flooding in the Jackson area.
There is expected to be at least one more listening session in June. A final report on steps forward is expected in December, with an announcement by January 2024.
The most recent flooding of Jackson occurred in 2020 and 2022. The flooding as well as ongoing infrastructure issues in the city led to a collapse in Jackson’s water system in August of 2022.
The Great City MS Foundation was one of the organizations participating in Wednesday’s listening sessions. They have encouraged the Corps to approve a locally designed project that will help address the flooding issues.
“We view this as a Pearl River Restoration and Resiliency Project that seeks, first and foremost, to provide a viable and vetted plan for flood control. Through river resiliency, we can help avoid the devastating flooding that has impacted our most disadvantaged citizens,” said Taylor Nicholas, Executive Director of the Great City MS Foundation. “The project also provides the opportunity for reliable, clean water supply across Jackson’s footprint. In addition, it reconnects the city to its urban waterfront that will drive investment and economic growth in Jackson in the vein of other great cities such as San Antonio, Tulsa, and Cincinnati.”
Flooding along the Pearl River has continued to impact Jackson residents. According to the Rankin Hinds Pearl River Flood & Drainage Control District (The District), Jackson experienced regular flooding through the 1950’s, particularly in the downtown area. The District was formed in the 1960’s to mitigate the flooding issues that were impacting more populated areas.
The most severe and well-known flood in Jackson was on Easter Sunday in 1979. The Pearl reached 43.28 feet and flooded thousands of homes and businesses. The damage was estimated at $500 to $700 million, which translates to nearly $2 billion today.
Levees have helped to reduce the frequency of flooding but cannot prevent severe impacts.
There are several options on the table to move forward. The Army Secretary can construct the National Economic Development plan (NED), the locally preferred plan (LPP) or a combination. The Secretary must ultimately determine that the LPP provides at least the same level of flood damage reduction as the NED plan while being technically feasible.
The locally preferred plan has the support of many in the Jackson area, including current Interim Third-Party Manager (ITPM) over Jackson’s water system, Ted Henifin. Henifin was appointed by Judge Henry Wingate after the water system collapse in August 2022. It is expected that Judge Wingate will also appoint Henifin over the city’s sewer system in the coming days.
“The ITPM supports the Channel Improvements Plan (Alternative C) because it preserves the broadest options for Jackson’s long-term drinking water needs. With a new weir, relocated to RM 284.3, a new water intake structure could be located anywhere along the river from the current location downstream to the new weir. Having more options would allow optimization of siting the plant to provide significant community benefits, elimination of flood risk to plant facilities, and target the best hydraulic location for pumping water throughout the system without limitations created by the location of the existing weir,” said Henifin.
Up to $200 million in funding has been allocated to complete the planning and begin implementation to mitigate the flooding.