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Hood will sue Corps of Engineers over damage to Mississippi Gulf Coast



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Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that he will file suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to require the federal government to pay for the extensive environmental and economic damage to the Mississippi Gulf Coast caused by the repeated and lengthy openings of the Bonnet Carré Spillway earlier this year.

The lawsuit, which will be filed in the name of the State of Mississippi, will also seek to protect the Gulf Coast from future damage by requiring the Corps to adopt updated and scientifically sound methods of flood control and by requiring the Corps to consider the impacts of spillway openings on Mississippi. Federal law requires the State to give the Corps 60 days notice before filing the lawsuit.

“Mississippi should not be the federal government’s dumping ground for polluted flood waters,” Hood said in a statement. “Our State’s environment and economy must be considered and protected just as the Corps protects the environment and economy of our neighboring states.”

The Bonnet Carré Spillway was opened for a record 123 days in 2019. Based on the Corps’ numbers, a total of 1.35 trillion cubic feet (almost 10 trillion gallons) of Mississippi River water was discharged through the spillway during that time. That discharge is equivalent to the volume of more than 15 million Olympic-size swimming pools, which, if laid end to end, would circle the Earth more than 18 times.

The water of the Mississippi River carries with it industrial pollutants from 31 states and two Canadian provinces, according to the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies. When the Corps repeatedly opened the Bonnet Carré Spillway in 2019, trillions of gallons of this polluted water was dumped into the Mississippi Sound.

The environmental and economic damage to the Mississippi Gulf Coast from the influx of trillions of gallons of polluted fresh water has been devastating. The Mississippi Sound is home to abundant populations of oysters, crabs, shrimp, fish and dolphins.

“The spillway opening has destroyed the State’s oyster reefs, decimated the crab and shrimp catch, and killed more dolphins than the 2010 BP Oil Spill,” Hood said.

Recreational fishing has been damaged because of toxic algae blooms caused by the influx of fresh water. Coast beaches were closed to swimming during the height of the tourist season because of the algae blooms.

The full extent of the damage to Mississippi’s environment and economy may not be known for years. Repeated openings of the Bonnet Carré Spillway in 2019 and future years will likely cause more overall harm to Mississippi than the one-time BP Oil Spill.

The Attorney General has three goals for this lawsuit against the Corps. First, Hood will seek to recover funds to compensate for the harm to the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s economy and environment. Second, Hood will seek to recover funds to rebuild and rehabilitate the oyster reefs and other damaged marine habitat and populations. Third, Hood will seek to limit future damage by directing the Corps to study the environmental impact of spillway openings on the Mississippi Sound and to adopt new procedures for flood control. The protocols for operating spillways are outdated, having been established in the 1930s and 1950s, and do not address the present and future conditions of the Mississippi River.

“The current approach to managing the Mississippi River must be reexamined,” Hood said. “The Corps must look both up-river and down-river to find ways to better protect Mississippians and the Mississippi Sound. I refuse to accept that the country that tests rocket engines at the Stennis Space Center cannot find a way to manage the Mississippi River without harming the Mississippi Sound. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. This lawsuit will give the Corps the will to change its practices to protect Mississippi.

“Our State is blessed with abundant seafood and beautiful beaches. Many hardworking Mississippians depend on fishing and tourism to make a living. For too long, Mississippi’s interests have been ignored. If we do not take immediate action to require the Corps to change its approach to flood control and limit the use of the Bonnet Carré Spillway, these ways of life will be threatened”

The attorney general is also working with the secretary of state, who also serves as the state land commissioner, to explore all options concerning damages to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“As we move forward, I intend to work closely with all stakeholders, including the Gulf Coast’s county and municipal officials, along with the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, to ensure that the Corps fully understands the damage caused to the Mississippi Sound,” Hood said.

The lawsuit will seek relief under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and contain other claims under federal law and Mississippi law.


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