Restoration along the Pearl River is on many people’s minds these days, on several fronts. My recent opinion letter in The Advocate makes the case that the desire for lake development in Jackson, Mississippi will work against ongoing and needed river restoration. One of the best recent pieces of news for the river is the Pearl Clean Sweep: a volunteer cleanup led by the new Pearl Riverkeeper over the Pearl’s full 390 miles on September 23rd.
In 2016 the pathway was opened for the State of Louisiana to take over the Pearl River Navigation Canal and remove sills. The 2016 Congressional Water Resources Development Act (WRDA 2016) made this possible with the canal’s de-authorization by the Corps of Engineers.
In 2016 one of the early NRDA BP settlement funded projects began rebuilding marsh and oyster reef at Heron Bay, just east of the Pearl River’s mouth in Hancock County, Ms. Other BP funded projects will model river flow on the 41 miles below the Walkiah Bluff river diversion and model salinities in upper Lake Borgne and the Western Mississippi Sound, both dominated by the Pearl’s fresh water discharge. This information can inform subsequent marsh and oyster bottom restoration in Louisiana and Mississippi.
This summer, resource agencies in the two states began discussing how to tackle the enormous cross-channel log-jam blocking the Pearl River just downstream of Bogalusa.
These projects are hopeful news for the river, unlike the “One Lake” project in Jackson.
Dredging and damming the Pearl, and transforming another seven miles of river into a sluggish lake is the most environmentally harmful way to control urban flooding, but is the alternative preferred by the local sponsors - a public/private partnership between The Pearl River Vision Foundation and the Rankin Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District. Clearly, the Pearl River needs more hopeful news and more restoration; not more disturbance to its ecology and flow.
Andrew Whitehurst is GRN's water program director and covers Mississippi water and wetland issues from Madison, Ms.