Creek cleanup gets go ahead from state, federal agencies

Published 5:12 pm Thursday, August 26, 2010

With clearances granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Mississippi Wildlife Fisheries and Parks, the effort to clean up Hobolochitto creek has only one more obstacle, finding enough volunteers.

In previous meetings with the planning committee for the volunteer effort, some concern was expressed about whether permits or permission would be needed from the federal Corps of Engineers or from the state wildlife agency for the cleanup to take place.

An employee of the Corps, Project Manager of the Regulatory Division Maryellen J. Farmer, said that as long as the cleanup process avoids using heavy equipment on the creek bed and leaves root balls as they are, then there is no need for a permit. If the use of heavy equipment is required, then that equipment should stay on the banks and means of protecting the bank from damage needs to be used. There should also be no attempt to change the path of the creek. Volunteers also should avoid putting debris on the banks.

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John “Tank” Herring with the Mississippi Wildlife Fisheries and Parks said that as long as the effort does not head into the wildlife refuge, permission to conduct the cleanup will also not be required from that agency. The only thing volunteers should keep in mind is that they will need to adhere to all state safety regulations, including wearing life jackets and using licensed water craft, he said.

Keith Kingrey said volunteers should strongly consider the use of small boats since they traverse the shallow creek easier. 

On Saturday, some of the volunteers took a second trip down the creek to acquire GPS coordinates of the large piles of vegetative and trash debris, said Mark Stockstill. That information will be combined with satellite images of the creek. City employees went out and removed the abandoned boat and cleaned up the area at Long Bridge on Beech Street to make launching small water craft much easier, said Mayor Ed Pinero Jr.

The effort also has the support of local landowner Mark Gibson, who said he owns a large part of the land along that area of the creek in need of cleaning.

Now there will be two dates to get the work done. On Sept. 11, people experienced with chain saws will head down the creek and make it navigable to the big pile of debris. On Oct. 16, a large volunteer base will be recruited to clean out the trash, backed by Mississippi Power’s Renew our Rivers program. Kingrey said the power company will be able to provide food and T-shirts.

To get local businesses involved, there will be another preparatory meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 1, at First Baptist Church of Picayune’s Link on Goodyear Boulevard. The meeting will take place at 8 a.m. Businesses will not be asked to donate money, but instead will be asked to help recruit volunteers, chain saws and boats. Any businesses that help with the effort will be included on the T-shirts provided by Mississippi Power, Kingrey said.

Derek Turnage said he still sees the need for emergency personnel, such as firefighters and EMS personnel, to volunteer. The organizers also are still looking for a jet ski for EMS personnel to use in the event of an accident.