Failure of weir along Pearl River worsens

Published 11:06 am Sunday, May 15, 2022

The weir located at the lower west side of the Mississippi border is in a declining state. The weir was put in place back in 1998 in an effort to ensure equal amounts of flow along the Pearl River are distributed between Mississippi and Louisiana, but current estimates state much more of the flow goes to Louisiana than to Mississippi.

Jason Almer and Les Dungan with Dungan Engineering went to the site to inspect the structure on Thursday. They also took drone video and pictures to inspect the weir’s condition.

Dungan clarified that the structure has not completely failed, but continues a steady decline towards failure.

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“It has not failed completely or catastrophically like people had thought, it’s still in that downward cycle, that steady degradation over the years,” said Dungan.

At this time he estimates that 90 percent of the flow from the Pearl River is escaping to the Bogue Chitto River at this point. Some of the flow does continue down the East Pearl River.

“It’s not functioning anywhere near its design or intent,” said Dungan.

The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors has a plan in place to repair the structure but is waiting for environmental approvals from Corps of Engineers with the state of Louisiana and US Fish and Wildlife Service before beginning the work.

Dungan said some of the funds are in place and they have authorization from the state Legislature to access the trust fund money in the amount of $4 million. That funding was set aside specifically for the maintenance of this structure.

“The structure is in such bad shape right now, that money is not adequate to totally restore the project to its original condition,” Dungan said.

Dungan said the project back in 1998 had two aspects, the installation of the weir and dredging a pilot channel down the East Pearl River.

“In order to do dredging of a pilot channel and restore the weir to its original condition would require more money than is available in the trust,” said Dungan.

Dungan added until funding can be found to performed a permanent fix, the county is looking to perform preventive maintenance to secure the river so they don’t lose 100 percent of the flow.

The recent damage was caused by a combination of the river being at a high stage for a long time, until just recently when  about 7-8 days ago, “the river just dropped.”

When that happened, the weir’s wall become very visible.

Dungan says the failure of the wall will continue until it reaches 100 percent failure. A 100 percent failure would mean losing complete river flow to the east side of the Pearl River. Engineers and Dungan are ready to start working on Mississippi’s end to repair the structure, but the project can’t start until gaining the approval of the governing agencies.