Reports of Pearl River flooding in the metropolitan area go back as far as published newspapers in Jackson. Downtown Jackson experienced regular flooding from the 1900s through the 1950s which caused the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to channelize the river and build levees on the Hinds and Rankin County side in the early 1960s. The levees reduced the frequency of flooding, but in 1979 the Pearl River overtopped the Jackson Fairground levee and flooded thousands of homes and businesses and caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage. A similar flood occurred again just four years later in 1983.

Every year, the Pearl River reaches flood stage multiple times. Another flood like the flood of 1979 would lead to damage and lost economic activity that exceeds $1 billion.