State officials concerned about La. levee plan

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI — Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says he’s worried that a proposed levee in Louisiana could place low-lying areas of south Mississippi in danger of flooding.

Hosemann told The Sun Herald he’s concerned about a proposal being considered to build a 24-foot barrier levee near Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana.

The plan is one of several under consideration to protect St. Tammany Parish, La., which is just across the state line from Hancock County.

“There’s a bathtub effect to this,” Hosemann said. “If you’ve got X amount of water and you put it in a small bathtub, it’s going to rise high. In the event they cut off areas that would normally flood and take some of the water off, then we are going to have more water here.”

Garret Graves, chair of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana, said officials are aware of the concerns Mississippi officials have and there are no plans that would harm Mississippi.

“The CPRA had representatives from the state of Mississippi participate in the development of our coastal master plan from day one,” he said. “Rumors about a secret plan to redirect Louisiana flood waters to Hancock and Harrison counties is apparently so secret that we don’t even know about it.”

He added, “We will continue to work closely with our friends in Mississippi and the Corps (of Engineers) on any project that may affect their state before moving forward.”

Gov. Phil Bryant asked Hosemann to study the issue ahead of discussions with Louisiana officials. Hosemann said Bryant and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, both Republicans, have a good working relationship.

Hosemann said he’d spoken with residents in Pearlington  and south Hancock County after Hurricane Isaac in 2012. They recalled their experiences of watching the water rise in those low-lying areas, which were also hard hit by Hurricane Katrina and other storms.

“These people have overcome so much,” he said. “We simply cannot put them at risk. This is not a question to me. There simply cannot be any levee structure that would increase the probability of increased water in Mississippi.”

The new proposals in Louisiana, which began to make news early this year, give Hosemann pause about what storm surges could do to the Mississippi coast if those plans are carried out.

U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., has asked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to study the proposals’ effects on south Mississippi’s coastal counties.

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