Sunday, December 02, 2007

Department of Energy slips the Richton plan through the cracks in the days after Katrina.

On Sept. 1, 2005, just three days after Katrina, the Department of Energy announced its intent to explore the environmental impact of building the reserve at Richton and three other sites, including one in Claiborne County.

"Nobody had a TV or electricity," said Rebecca Stowe, director of the Nature Conservancy's office in Merrill. "It definitely seems to have flown under the radar." She said she had no knowledge of the announcement or subsequent public meetings, and she believes George County officials also knew nothing of the plan.

Not only did we not have TV, Internet Service or electricity we were not getting any mail for several weeks.

The agency cancelled public meetings in Hattiesburg and Pascagoula scheduled for early October 2005 because the meeting places had been damaged. They rescheduled the meeting for two weeks later in Jackson (the state capital, not the county). The Jackson County Board of Supervisors was left out of the loop, said Supervisor Frank Leach at a recent Sierra Club meeting about the project.

The report said more than 1,500 acres of wetlands could be altered, filled or damaged through the Richton program, and 150 acres of prime fish habitat could be damaged.

By May 2007, said a Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks official, meetings between state and federal agencies concluded the Leaf would not support the mining process, which would draw enough fresh water to create about 1.2 billion gallons of brine nearly 10 times saltier than the waters of Mississippi Sound it would then be dumped into. Fifty million gallons is roughly the equivalent of 11 football fields, measured goal post to goal post, each sitting under 10 feet of water.

Thoughts turned to the Pascagoula River, the only river in the lower 48 states that has not been dammed.

Mississippi deserves better then to be treated as a dumping ground by the rest of the nation. We must rally to protect our wetlands, our rivers and the Mississippi Sound.

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