Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Pascagoula: Let Her Continue to Sing

The Pascagoula River is also known as the Singing River. Legend has it that a doomed love affair is the result of the disincentive humming the Pascagoula makes. The Pascagoula River is a beautiful treasure that is facing a serious threat. The proposed Richton Strategic Petroleum Reserve will have serious consequences not only for the Pascagoula River but for Gulf of Mexico as well.

The plan calls for using 55 million gallons of water a day from the Pascagoula River to flush out the Richton Salt Dome. Then, the water from the salt dome will be expelled into the Gulf of Mexico. This plan is idiotic. The amount of salt to be pumped into the Gulf of Mexico will affect estuaries and marshes.

How is it that we on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are so far behind on acknowledging this threat, not only to the existing beauty but also to the livelihoods of many?

The biggest problem is when the public comments were held. The Department of Energy held public hearing on October 18, 2005 in Jackson MS. This was only a month and half after Hurricane Katrina had slammed onto the Mississippi Gulf Coast. People down here were trying their best to get their lives back in order and the main focus was cleaning up the mess, finding housing, and dealing with limited supplies of all types. We, on the Coast, were in survivor mode.

The The Clarion-Ledger expresses our concerns very well:

Digging a hole in the ground near Richton is not the problem, nor is storing 160 million barrels of oil in a salt dome. The real flaw in this project is the method used to dig this hole: pumping the waste to Pascagoula and dumping it into the Gulf of Mexico.

We already have one huge dead zone in the Gulf near the mouth of the Mississippi River, which is the result of nutrients and phosphorous from farmlands throughout the Mississippi River basin. Within this dead zone no marine life exists.

Dumping 160 million gallons of salt brine into the Gulf could easily fill a 10-square-mile area, two to four feet deep. This high-salinity brine will remain indefinitely, and it will affect salinity levels for hundreds of miles surrounding the dump site. This salt solution will not only kill every living thing in the immediate dump location, but it puts at risk the marsh breeding grounds for shrimp, fish and all manner of marine life. A change in salinity would affect the food chain of marine organisms.

And, as a hurricane approaches the shore, it brings with it a wall of water filled with mud and whatever may be lying on the floor of the Gulf. The storm surge from any future hurricane which crossed the salt dump area could easily dredge up that 160 million gallons of brine and dump it all along the coast of Jackson County, destroying coastal marshes and contaminating the soil.

But it is not just Jackson County that will be affected. The whole Mississippi Gulf Coast is in danger from this ill-thought plan. Birds, fish, shell-fish, marsh plants, and people will be affected from Lakeshore Mississippi to Escatawpa Mississippi.

The tourism indsutry as well as the seafood industry will be affected. We can't let this plan go through. We need to preserve this river so that future generations can enjoy the charm and beauty of the Singing River.

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