GREENWOOD — Greenwood could be at the most risk of flooding if a proposed development around Sardis Lake is allowed to proceed.
So warns Chip Morgan, executive vice president of Delta Council.
Morgan, speaking to the Greenwood Rotary Club this week, said that Delta Council has for three years been in discussions with Sardis officials about the town’s desire to develop a resort center at Sardis Lake.
Sardis is asking Congress to turn over the federally controlled land around the lake to the town. The town would then, under the plan, lease the land for 99 years to Southern Development Corp. of Jackson.
The private developer, according to Morgan, says it will spend $240 million on building the resort center, which would include 1,600 residential units, a 300-unit condominium hotel lodge, an indoor water park and hotel, a retail village and a 36-hole golf course. It would create about 900 direct or indirect jobs.
If that project were to proceed, though, Delta Council contends it would jeopardize the fundamental purpose of Sardis Lake — to hold back water that would otherwise flood areas south of it and the other three flood-control dams in northwest Mississippi.
“There’s nothing any of us would like better than to see economic development in any town in the Delta,” said Morgan. “The problem is that we can’t accept that people will build $100 million in condos and not want to see water.
“If they see water, we don’t have storage to keep water off Greenwood, Mississippi.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is charged with managing the four lakes. It traditionally lets their water levels drop from October through February to have the capacity to contain the spring rainfall. Because Sardis is the largest of the four lakes, it plays an especially pivotal role in flood control, Morgan said.
Delta Council, said Morgan, believes that the proposed development would put pressure on the Corps of Engineers to keep the water level at Sardis conducive to those who live and vacation around the lake rather than to those who want to keep the Yazoo River within its banks.
Investors in the proposed development, he said, “are going to want the low water time to be high and the high water time to be low.”
Rick Jameson, manager of the Sardis Lake Marina, said Delta Council’s opposition is grounded in a “horrible miscommunication.”
Jameson said the resort center would have no impact on the corps’ ability to manage the lake to maximize flood control.
The site for the proposed development, he said, is in the southeastern corner of the lake, where the Corps of Engineers almost a decade ago turned a previously dry cove into a trapped pool by erecting a levee. Water in that area stays at a stable level year-round, he said, and isn’t affected by what the Corps of Engineers does at the lake’s upper elevations.
“The lake’s ability to withhold water is identical to how it’s always been,” Jameson said. “If the development comes in, there still will be no change in their ability to maintain water flow.”
Greenwood, said Morgan, would be the most susceptible to any changes at Sardis Lake because it’s the first Delta community that potentially could receive overflow from all four lakes.
“That’s where everything gathers,” he said.
Morgan said that Delta Council is at an impasse with Sardis officials pushing the project. He said that while normally the organization tries to find points of compromise when there are conflicting interests, that doesn’t appear possible in this case.
“We can’t see how we can give them what they want and still provide flood protection,” he said.
Source: Greenwood Commonwealth