Pearl River in need of help

Published 7:00 am Saturday, August 6, 2016

SKILLED NAVIGATION: A boater along the Pearl River carefully negotiates a narrow path through a collection of downed trees and logs. Photo by Jeremy Pittari

SKILLED NAVIGATION: A boater along the Pearl River carefully negotiates a narrow path through a collection of downed trees and logs.
Photo by Jeremy Pittari

It’s a point of contention for anyone who has grown up along the Pearl River, the uneven amount of water Mississippi currently receives once water gets to the weir, locally known as Wilson Slough.
The slough is a great place for emergency personnel to conduct swift water training, but the weir is also the reason why Pearl River County boaters can’t enjoy the river when it’s at low flow stage during the height of summer.
What was supposed to be a 50/50 split engineered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the late 90s, has degraded to a situation where Mississippi keeps only 15 to 20 percent of the flow.
If someone is lucky enough to launch a boat at Walkiah Bluff in Pearl River County, they can expect their prop to strike at least two to three rock bars as they head toward the weir before the water is deep enough.
Local resident Jeremy Magri has been enjoying the river with his father since he was about 4-years-old, and has witnessed it go through many changes. Now, about 30 years later, all of the favorite places he and his late father used to fish are no longer accessible, either because the river bed has fallen so far that the areas once a favorite of locals are no longer accessible or because the diversion project has degraded.
There have been some changes to the river that are not the result of human intervention. Magri piloted a boat to a section of the river he calls “Government Ditch”, where the river diverted from its original path, leaving a pristine area of sandbars dry in the summer months. Along the diversion, instead of sandy areas to stop and take a swim, is a collection of logs and fallen trees that have to be navigated slowly and carefully to ensure the boat’s engine does not become snagged or the boat doesn’t become wedged between a tree and the current, creating a dangerous situation.
That diversion has also prevented easy access to Black Creek, a favorite fishing spot for many locals. As summer progresses, at times the river is too low to launch even a small flatbed boat from Walkiah, especially if it’s been sometime since the last rain, Magri said.
“You really can’t enjoy the river when you can’t launch a boat,” Magri said.
He recalls a time last year when he and a friend had to drag the boat over low areas to get to deeper water. That situation is a direct result of the unequal diversion of water due to the weir, said Danny Manley, Pearl River County’s Emergency Management director.
Another aspect that is affecting usability of the river is the buildup of sediment south of the weir, Manley said. That sediment is creating the rock bars close to the Walkiah boat launch.
Manley and Magri agree that if the weir diverted water in an equal fashion, then the boat launch and river would be used more.
The problem is being looked at, but nothing is set in stone yet.
Senator Angela Hill said she’s had discussions with representatives with the Corps of Engineers, Pearl River Basin Development District and local residents who either live along the Pearl River or have camps there.
See next Saturday’s edition of the Item for coverage of possible avenues to fix the problem and what is in the works to accomplish that goal.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox