Congressman Steven Palazzo (MS-4) sent a letter to Major General Richard G. Kaiser, President of the Mississippi River Commission (MRC) and Commander of the Mississippi Valley Division for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), expressing his concerns about the devastating impacts on Mississippi’s coastal ecosystems caused by the re-opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway (BCS).

“My constituents in south Mississippi are facing the realities of the spillway’s opening for a second time this year. The discharge of freshwater into the Mississippi Sound is proving to be fatal for our marine life, having already killed more dolphins than the BP oil spill,” Palazzo said. 

“The livelihood of south Mississippi depends on our coastal ecosystems, which is why I am calling for the state of Mississippi to be granted a permanent position on the MRC to represent the interests of our fishery and tourism communities that support our local economy. I am also asking for an immediate study of the impact on Mississippi’s marine ecosystems to be conducted, and request that the USACE clearly communicate

their mitigation plan to protect our ecological systems,” Palazzo continued.

“The damage caused by the spillway’s openings could be irreversible and I am committed to mitigating as much of this catastrophe as possible. My office will continue working with the USACE, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, and the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) moving forward. We will not stand idly by as our way of life deteriorates in front of us,” Palazzo concluded.

In his letter, Palazzo highlights that in the spillway’s 88-year history, BCS has never been opened twice in the same year. Because of this influx of freshwater into the Mississippi Sound, the existing ecosystems have suffered substantial losses.

Palazzo requests the USACE communicate a transparent plan that mitigates current ecological damage as well as establishes preventative measures that will ensure the situation does not repeat itself.

He specifically points to the impacts on Mississippi’s blue crabs, world-renowned oysters and shrimp beds, stating vast amounts of freshwater and polluted river water threaten the very life blood of the Mississippi coast’s seafood industry. Oyster populations along the state’s coast have been decimated, and the last crab catch, which occurred earlier this year, yielded a third less crabs than average. Moreover, Palazzo also said the state’s shrimping season will likely be delayed due to the decrease in shrimp population sampling.

In 2019, the IMMS has recorded more than one hundred dolphin carcasses suffering from freshwater lesions throughout the Mississippi Sound. This marks the deadliest month in the last five years for dolphins and sea turtles. Palazzo attributes this drastic increase to the inundation of freshwater into the Mississippi Sound.

To avoid irreparable damage and better understand the long-term downstream effects of the spillway, Palazzo requests an independent study of the Mississippi Sound’s marine ecosystem to examine population dynamics, health, and important habitats.

Acknowledging the importance of flood control management to southern Mississippi, Palazzo also states that safeguarding our natural resources is a primary concern for his Congressional district.

The full letter can be found here.

Congressman Steven Palazzo Press Release