After the Bonne Carré Spillway opening closed Mississippi beaches for three months this year, statewide opposition grows against a plan to make diversions permanent.
- by Lisa Monti
George Cavignac, executive director of nonprofit Gulf Coast Resource Coalition, told the Bay city council the plan is currently in the Corps of Engineers permitting process and is being fast-tracked. He called it an impending crisis.
“The time to act is now,” he said. “This is something that literally will wipe out the culture that is Southeast Louisiana and South Mississippi and our recreational and commercial fishing industries and tourism. It’s definitely worth fighting for."
The push in Hancock County to oppose the river diversion effort comes just days after Mississippi’s beaches were cleared for swimming. They were closed by the state Department of Environmental Quality because of toxic algal resulting from the opening of the Bonne Carre spillway for 123 days this year.
The spillway released 10 trillion gallons of Mississippi River water which GCRC says inundated Mississippi’s coastal waters, causing massive harm to the economy, fisheries and marine mammal population.
The proposed Mid-Breton Project is designed to release 33 million gallons of Mississippi River water per minute, though the amount can vary. The minimum flow would be 5,000 CFS (cubic feet per second) - which is 2,250,000 gallons per minute.
Mid-Breton backers have taken a couple of legislative moves to give the project a better chance of getting approval, but that would negatively impact marine life. Cavignac said the Louisiana group got a waiver to the Marine Mammal Protection Act passed and is now trying to amend a bill to remove the essential fish habitat environmental review that is part of the required environmental review.
“The project can’t sustain an environmental review. If it can’t pass the environmental impact study process, they need to either not do it or mitigate for the fisheries and tourism dollars. That would drive project out of its price range,” he said.
One councilman called Cavignac’s presentation “very informative and alarming.” The council voted unanimously to ask the state Congressional delegation to oppose the project and to ask the governor to oppose the issuance of a federal permit to construct the project. The Hancock supervisors took similar steps at their meeting.
Wendy McDonald, a candidate for Mississippi House District 122, lists opposition to the diversion plans as her number one priority in Jackson. She told the Shoofly Magazine, “We celebrate the reopening of the beaches but we’re going to have to work to keep them that way. It’s going to take all of us pulling together.”
For more information, go to https://gulfcoastresource.org.