50 years after the establishment of the Endangered Species Act and 50 years after the last Pearl darter was seen in the Pearl River drainage, 39 Pearl darters were reintroduced to their native home!! USFWS's Matt Wagner called this event "the biggest win in his career as a biologist”. Pearl darters, now a federally threatened species, were once present throughout the Strong River and in the main stem of the Pearl as far south as I-10. Until today, the last remaining population lived in the Pascagoula River drainage. USFWS endangered species listing and recovery expert, Matt Wagner and team developed a Pearl darter recovery plan and designated a section of the Strong River as "critical habitat" for the fish. Over the past several years, brood stock from the Bouie River near Hattiesburg, MS, were collected and brought to the Private John Allen National Fish Hatchery in Tupelo for spawning. The Hatchery learned through much trial and error to successfully raise pearl darters and, today, 39 of the darters spawned this spring were released to the river!! The Pearl darter species recovery plan includes monitoring, surveying, and research of the species to ensure it can survive long-term in both the Pascagoula and Pearl River systems to the point that it is no longer threatened. Thank you, USFWS, Private John Allen Fish Hatchery, MDWFP and Strong River Camp for your dedication to biodiversity and conservation and for the opportunity to witness this rare, historic event.
In late July 2022, the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District (Levee Board) transmitted their One Lake Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) document to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works ((ASA(CW)) for the next step in the One Lake project review process. The ASA(CW) and the federal Office of Water Policy Review have 30-45 days to review the document before sending it to other state and federal agencies for another 30-45 day review period. If the document passes these 2 sequential review periods, the document will be published to the Federal Register and available for a 30-45 public comment period. It has not yet been determined if the document would be published as another Draft EIS or as a Final EIS. Public comment could begin as early as October 2022. The US Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters is responsible for preparing final recommendations and conditions based on the state and federal reviews.
Many questions remain since the publication of the 2018 One Lake Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) including:
Pearl Riverkeeper will be looking for the answers to these questions and more upon the release of the next edition of the One Lake Environmental Impact Statement.
**The Levee Board never publicly released the 2018 Independent External Peer Review or the 2018 US Army Corps of Engineers Agency Technical Review Summary Report. These 2 documents were obtained via FOIA request and can be viewed here: https://www.pearlriverkeeper.com/one-lake-agency-reviews.html
Pearl Riverkeeper is on iNaturalist! The iNaturalist app helps you ID the plants and animals around you and connects you with our local community of citizen scientists and naturalists. Download the app and register for your free account today. Existing and new members, join the Biodiversity of the Pearl River Watershed project to help us gather research quality data on the flora and fauna in our area. Any observation you make in the counties of the Pearl River watershed will automatically be added to our project. https://www.inaturalist.org/.../biodiversity-of-the-pearl...
#WaterQualityWednesday is back!! Our dedicated water quality monitors are out in the watershed this summer protecting your right to clean water! Our volunteers collect valuable data for early detection of issues, determining changes over time and supplementing monitoring by government agencies. For their most recent water quality report, MDEQ was only able to assess 12% of MS rivers and streams and conducted no weekly bacteria testing on inland rivers and lakes. Pearl Riverkeeper volunteers are helping to fill the gap. Shout out to our members and Patagonia for financially supporting this crucial work. View our WATER TESTING RESULTS.
Intense heat, high nutrients (from fertilizers or sewer leaks), little rain and lots of evaporation are the perfect conditions for harmful algae blooms like this one on Brashear Creek in Madison. Algae blooms create low dissolved oxygen "dead zones" in the water which can potentially lead to fish kills. Some freshwater blooms are caused by cyanobacteria which have the potential to produce toxins that affect humans, pets, and our ecosystems. **Pets can get very sick and die within hours after swallowing toxins made by harmful algal blooms in bodies of water like lakes and rivers. Do not let your pets drink, play, or swim in water that has signs of a harmful algal bloom.
If you see an algae bloom, please report it to us here: https://www.pearlriverkeeper.com/report-pollution.html
Pearl Riverkeeper commemorated 50 years of the Clean Water Act by sampling for PFAS chemicals in the Pearl River near the gorgeous Byram Swinging Bridge. Waterkeeper Alliance is partnering with Cyclopure to test waters around the country for PFAS, a class of widely used synthetic chemicals, known as “Forever Chemicals” that break down very slowly over time. EPA recently announced four new drinking water national health advisories, cutting PFAS lifetime exposure limits to a fraction of what was previously thought to be safe. Check out how you can get your own drinking water tested for PFAS here: https://volunteer.consumerreports.org/MSwaterstudy?EXTKEY=BEC26EE002
In 1995, the Army Corps of Engineers built a weir at Walkiah Bluff near Picayune, MS to split flow between the East and West Pearl Rivers. From the beginning, the weir sent 70% of the water down the West Pearl and 30% down the East. For years the weir has been deteriorating and this year it is almost gone. The diversion is now sending about 90% of the water down the West Pearl.
Since the weir at Walkiah Bluff has failed and water flow has been greatly reduced to the East Pearl River, a USFWS representative and our PRK Board member, Jessica Gauley, visited the area in June to check the status of the local mussel population. The East Pearl water level is extremely low and dead mussels are littering the dried-up section of the riverbed. USFWS looked for any mussels listed on the threatened or endangered species list but did not find any. US Army Corps of Engineers representatives were also on the scene and were reported to be monitoring the river level with drones. Jessica said that when she could see what looked like thousands of mussels crowded together in the remaining river water. Photos courtesy: Mike Chapman
Plan to repair weir presented:
Ross Barnett Reservoir 2022 dredging operations began in May. Phase 1 will include all the subdivisions on the south shore working east to west. Phase 2 will be the three subdivisions on north shore. All channels will be dredged to an elevation of 292 feet above sea level, allowing 5.5 feet of depth at normal pool (297.5) and 4 feet at winter pool (296.0).
15-20 acres of land along Spillway Rd have been clear-cut to create spoil ponds or "confined disposal facilities (CDFs) for the dredged material. The mature timber from the clear-cut was sold by PRVWSD. The spoil from dredging will be pumped to the CDFs via floating pipelines. The CDFs are designed to allow the sediment to settle to the bottom and remain there while the water is slowly released back to the Reservoir. The two CDFs that have been built have interior surface areas of 1 acre and 3 acres. Additional CDFs will be required, and will be constructed as the dredging proceeds.
Pearl Riverkeeper is utilizing environmental DNA sequencing technology (qPCR) to determine the fecal contamination sources on one of our Strong River watershed creeks. Many of our rural creeks are impacted by bacteria through various non-point sources such as failing septic tanks, small poultry operations, cattle pastures, and sediment erosion. This testing will help us narrow down the contamination sources and could potentially lead to remediation plans and subsequent water quality improvements. Want to support our work towards cleaner water? Become a member here: https://www.pearlriverkeeper.com/become-a-member.html. Thank you to @Patagonia for sponsoring this work.
Operation Shoestring provides year-round academic, social and emotional support to children in central Jackson from pre-K – 12th grade, while supporting and providing resources to their families. This summer, Pearl Riverkeeper is partnering with Operation Shoestring to provide water education for their Project Rise summer camp. From Operation Shoestring: "At our Project Rise summer camp kids like Georgia have empowering, exciting, and enriching experiences that broaden the scope of what she thought was possible in her life. Abby Braman, executive director of Pearl Riverkeeper was the first person Georgia had ever met that worked in environmentalism, and now the Walton Elementary student thinks that maybe she'll grow up to be like her. 'She protects nature, like the turtles. She even holds them! It's so cool,' Georgia reflected when she got to Operation Shoestring. And it's through these experiences that Georgia and her peers build the foundations of a healthy, hopeful, and self-determined life. Partner with us at operationshoestring.org/support"
Pearl Riverkeeper was also fortunate this summer to spend time at beautiful Lake Pushmataha chatting with the Choctaw Youth Conservation Corps about environmental non-profits, careers in conservation, the importance of water quality protections and demonstrating water testing procedures. "The Choctaw Youth Conservation Corps is a comprehensive youth program that provides tribal youth work-based opportunities in the field of environmental conservation, natural resources management, and related aspects of the outdoor professional study through a 4-week long summer project that strengthens the protection, conservancy, and maintenance of natural resources on the Choctaw tribal lands, with an emphasis on the preserving cultural significant locations, such as Nanih Waiya. Participants assist with actual natural resources management work tasks, participate daily in hands-on activities in order to build on tribal stewardship and appreciation for our tribal natural resources and participate in educational, cultural and environmental learning taught by tribal, state and federal researchers and professionals." Thank you, Mitzi Reed and CYCC!
Pearl Riverkeeper is a licensed member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, the largest and fastest growing nonprofit solely focused on clean water.