Pearl River Basin, Mississippi Flood Control Project Overview
For more than 100 years, headwater flooding of the Pearl River has caused disruption to businesses and industry throughout the Jackson metropolitan area, putting over 5,000 commercial and residential structures, several hospitals, and interstate highways at risk of flood damage. The most notable of the numerous flood events that have affected the study area is the Easter Flood of 1979, which disrupted businesses across the Jackson metropolitan area and affected major transportation routes, including closing two interstate highways and restricting access to critical care facilities. The resulting damage to residential and commercial structures and infrastructure (including the 46 MGD wastewater treatment plant serving the metropolitan area) totaled approximately $223 million. If a comparable event occurred in 2018, damages would surpass $1 billion.
Federal flood control measures in the Pearl River Watershed date back to at least the early 1900s. Multiple studies have been conducted on the Pearl River Watershed over the past sixty years, ranging from reconnaissance level studies to feasibility level studies. However, no major flood reduction measures have been put in place since the devastating floods of 1979 and 1983, leaving the majority of the flood-prone Jackson metropolitan area unprotected.
The Locally Preferred Plan for bringing substantive flood risk management to the region is a combination of excavating and widening the Pearl River while reinforcing the existing levee system. It also includes relocating and improving an existing weir to a location just downstream from I-20.
The effort for Pearl River Basin flood control has a long history of Congressional support and authorization Section 3104 of WRDA 2007 authorized the project subject to approval by the Secretary, and provided that the federal government would pay for two-thirds of the project cost. It was further demonstrated in the most recently enacted Water Resources Development legislation, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (the WIIN Act), now codified as Public Law 114-322. It affirms the project’s history, its authority, and status under the provisions of Section 211 of WRDA 1996, and directs the Secretary of the Army to “expedite review and decisions on recommendations” for the project.
Since 2012, the Rankin Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District (Flood Control District), as the non-Federal sponsor, has been working with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) on an Integrated Draft Feasibility and Environmental Impact Statement (FS/EIS) in order to justify federal participation in flood damage risk reduction within the Pearl River Basin in Mississippi.
The draft FS/EIS has undergone a multi-step intense review process including a review by the Vicksburg District office of the USACE, a USACE’s Agency Technical Review process, and an Independent External Peer Review conducted by Battelle Institute. The Flood Control District is currently working with the USACE to complete the remaining elements of the review process including reviews by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other federal agency reviews, State Historic Preservation, and Tribal consultations. The draft FS/EIS will be presented for public comment and public meetings beginning in June 2018, and then will be shared with HQUSACE for further federal agency consultation and review.
Throughout this review process, the Jackson metropolitan region has remained under the threat of flooding from the Pearl River with several near events happening over the past 20 years. The Flood Control District has taken prudent steps to identify a flood control project that is technically feasible and environmentally sound and hopes to receive approval from the USACE in 2018 so that substantive flood protection can be put in place.
The overreaching project goal is to provide a comprehensive solution to reduce flood risk in the Jackson metropolitan area caused by the Pearl River. The investigation of the problems and opportunities in the study area led to the establishment of the following planning objectives:
- Reduce the flood risk from the Pearl River in the Jackson metropolitan area
- Reduce loss of transportation routes with an Average Daily Traffic counts of 10,000 or higher
- Reduce damage to critical infrastructure caused by flooding
- Integrate environmental design features to conserve or improve natural resources
- Integrate recreational features to allow more public access to the Pearl River and recreational resources