By JACK WEATHERLY
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann on Monday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Mississippi River Commission because of the extended release of fresh water into the saltwater Mississippi Sound from the Bonnet Carré Spillway.
The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for South Mississippi seeks a temporary injunction to order the corps to operate the Bonnet Carré in conjunction with the Morganza Spillway and to mitigate damage to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The Morganza Spillway diverts water from the Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya Basin and River in Louisiana.
“As state land Commissioner and trustee of the Public Trust Lands, it is my duty to protect Mississippi’s land, its water and its resources,” Hosemann said in a news release after he made the public announcement. The infiltration of fresh water into the Mississippi Sound as a result of solely opening the Bonnet Carré caused devastating effects across the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
“This lawsuit does not address the monetary loss to the State and the Coast. This could be addressed in future litigation.”
The lawsuit further alleges the extended release was taken without the benefit of an up-to-date Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), giving no consideration of the environmental impact to the Mississippi Sound and Mississippi’s Public Trust Tidelands.
Thus Hosemann is seeking to compel the defendants to perform a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement as well as to utilize the Morganza Spillway to mitigate the freshwater inundation of the Mississippi Sound in the future.
In July, Hosemann asked the Corps and the Commission to: 1.) conduct an immediate study of the operating manuals and procedures for both the Morganza Floodway and the Bonnet Carré Spillway and 2.) include as part of the study, the ecological effects and economic impacts of freshwater intrusion into the Mississippi Sound as a result of the current operating procedures.
The freshwater intrusion into the Mississippi Sound from the Bonnet Carré Spillway negatively impacted oyster, shrimp, blue crab, and fish harvests and caused devastating losses to commercial fisherman, charter boat operators, and the tourism industry.
In August, Hosemann requested additional modeling of the opening of the Morganza Floodway in varying amounts and later in the month testified before the commission on the annual low-water inspection trip in Vicksburg where he reiterated all of these requests. Additionally, Hosemann, along with the Department of Marine Resources, requested an Environmental Impact Study.
The Bonnet Carré Spillway has been opened five times since 2011 and was opened twice this year for a total of 123 days, while the Morganza Floodway has been opened twice – in 1973 and 2011.
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