- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) - After three years of analysis, George and Jackson county officials are moving forward with a proposal for a $100 million project that would create two lakes by damming a tributary to the Pascagoula River.

The Pat Harrison Waterway District has submitted the 2,868-acre Lake George project to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and several state offices for permitting, multiple media outlets reported Monday.

The project has already received several million in state funds for studies and engineering.

The project consists of two lakes, an upper and lower lake, directly connected by Big Cedar and Little Cedar creeks.

Officials say the water will be able to serve recreational purposes, but the primary purpose of creating the twin lakes is to provide some drought resiliency when the flow of the Pascagoula River gets too low, county officials said.

“The water could be released from the lake to go into the river to hold those levels to where it wouldn’t get dangerously low and keep some of the industries being shorted of water down there,” George County supervisor Kelly Wright said.

Opponents of the lake project say the proposed dams amount to damming the Pascagoula River because they would impede the creeks that feed into it.

“The Pascagoula is more than the main trunk of the river,” said Steve Shepard, with the local chapter of the environment-focused Sierra Club.

He also said the two lakes would struggle to stay full themselves, but he said he has only seen “vague maps” from the county and no other data.

Responding to concerns about the counties taking a tourism blow, George County’s Pat Harrison board member, Aubert Pitts, said the project will not affect the Pascagoula River’s honorary title of “largest undammed, untamed river” in the continental U.S.

The Corps is likely to schedule a public meeting on the project in the coming weeks, agency officials said.

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