The Pearl River map turtle (Graptemys pearlensis) exists nowhere else in the world except the Pearl and Bogue Chitto Rivers. It is listed as an Endangered Species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Wild populations of the Pearl River map turtle have declined as much as 98% since 1950, mostly due to water pollution impacting our river's mollusk population. According to a publication by Kristina Alexander from Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program, dredging and widening the Pearl for the One Lake project would threaten the habitat of this species and another threatened species, the ringed map turtle. The US Fish & Wildlife Service has stated that "(i)f the proposed reservoir is completed, it would likely result in the extirpation of the known ringed map turtle population (south of the current reservoir)." Read more here: http://masglp.olemiss.edu/publications/conservation/mapturtle.pd
Signs of spring during a recent tour of the Fannye Cook Natural Area. The Natural Area, currently closed to the public except for private tours, is located on 2,700 acres along the banks of the Pearl River in Flowood. The land was donated to Wildlife Mississippi by MDOT through a wetlands mitigation program to offset losses of wetlands from previous road construction projects in the Pearl River Basin. Wildlife Mississippi is hard at work on preparations to open the Natural Area to the public. This beautiful space will be a haven for walkers, runners, bird watchers, and nature enthusiasts. There are also plans to add a much-needed kayak and/or boat launch at the location. According to MDOT, this will be Mississippi's largest urban natural area, with more than 820,000 people living within 60 miles of the site.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 5, "to express opposition to the 'One Lake' project", has been adopted by the Louisiana State Legislature, House and Senate. Thank you Senator Beth Mizell, Senator Sharon Hewitt, Representative Malinda Brumfield-White and others for authoring this bill and for your leadership in a holistic approach to the health of the Pearl River. This river belongs to all of us, not just the developers.
Pearl Riverkeeper spent an awesome day spent on the Middle Pearl yesterday helping Fish & Wildlife Service with their Juvenile Sturgeon population study. FWS is on their third year of tagging and tracking Pearl River juvenile Gulf sturgeons in order to study their population, movements and migration patterns. The Pearl River is designated "Critical Habitat" for this threatened species that migrates seasonally up and down the river. Gulf sturgeon move from the Gulf of Mexico into coastal rivers in early spring and spawning occurs in the upper reaches of these rivers. Dams such as the sills at Pools Bluff and Jackson Waterworks block this species' passage to its historical spawning habitats.
Packed house at the beautiful Smith Robertson Museum & Cultural Center for the One Lake Forum last night. Thank you to all of the community-minded, engaged citizens who came out to learn about the potential detrimental economic and environmental impacts of the One Lake project. We appreciate your heart-felt love for the Pearl River! #OneRiverNoLake
Citizen Science is in action at the Ross Barnett Reservoir!! Trainers from Global Water Watch came to MS this weekend to teach Pearl Riverkeeper volunteers about bacteriological water monitoring and watershed stewardship. So thankful for the training, expertise, guidance and laughs from Dr. Bill Deutsch and Sergio Ruiz-Cordova. And, as usual, our volunteers rock!! Thank you all! Stay tuned for more information about our summer water monitoring program designed to keep you informed about safe recreation on the Reservoir!
Our Pearl River cypress swamps contribute invaluable and irreplaceable ecological services to our local economy and communities. These wetlands soak up surface waters during heavy rains, reducing downstream flood peaks and lessoning the damage from flood waters. They provide habitat for an entire ecosystem and help sustain biodiversity. They retain and filter sediments and nutrients to increase water quality. They provide economic value in terms of eco-tourism activities such as boating, bird watching, hunting, fishing and hiking. They act as carbon sinks, providing long-term storage of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Destroying wetlands has a cascading, permanent detrimental effect on the health and welfare of a community. The One Lake project proposes the destruction of over 1,000 acres of Pearl River wetlands, robbing our future generations of a vital resource and permanently altering a river that belongs to all of us.
In 2015, the top 5 Pearl River Basin polluters dumped over 3 million pounds of toxic chemicals into our watershed. The vast majority of this toxic waste came in the form of nitrates from 3 poultry processing companies, Tyson Foods, Peco Foods and Sanderson Farms. Nitrate pollution has numerous "external costs" to the environment which are not paid for by the companies discharging this toxic waste. These external costs, borne by the taxpayer and the public in general, include:
In addition to the nitrate compounds dumped by the poultry processing industry, Georgia-Pacific and International Paper together contributed 443,800 pounds of toxic discharges to our watershed, including manganese compounds, methanol, nitrate compounds, ammonia, barium compounds and acetaldehyde. Georgia-Pacific paper plant in Monticello, MS dumped by far the largest amount of carcinogenic chemicals into the Pearl River watershed with a total value of 16,668 pounds.
This Pearl River Basin chemical discharge data was compiled from the EPA's 2015 Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) National Analysis Report of chemical discharges to air, land and water. U.S. facilities must report their discharges of certain toxic chemicals annually to the EPA. For the most part, the discharge of these chemicals is legally authorized by each state through the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System. Mississippi and Louisiana Departments of Environmental Quality test their waterways, designate the waterway sections as "attaining their designated use" or as "impaired" and make Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) discharge determinations. The TMDL is then used as the basis for discharge permit authorizations.
"Since the creation of the TRI Program, the information collected and presented has provided a way for citizens to better understand possible sources of pollution in their communities. This better understanding can be the basis for actions, such as communications with facilities releasing chemicals to the environment and with regulatory authorities that have oversight responsibilities. This concept of citizen empowerment is summed up by the slogan, 'A Right to Know, A Basis to Act'." EPA.gov.
Join forces with Pearl Riverkeeper to help protect our watershed by signing up for our newsletter, becoming a member or volunteering for our Clean Water Team.
Pearl Riverkeeper conducted an analysis on the 2015 Toxic Release Inventory National Analysis Report database published by the EPA. Errors are possible. Please consult the EPA website for the full report.
1. Skip the Straw
Straws are one of the most commonly found items on beach cleanups and are basically just another waste of plastic. Just tell your waitress/bartender #nostrawplease. If you love to use a straw, get yourself a cool metal reusable version.
2. Go Foam Free
Styrofoam is a complete design fail in terms of sustainability. It is a petroleum-based, non-recylable, carcinogenic material that takes 500 years to fully degrade yet begins to fall apart in tiny pieces once it is trashed. Spend a few minutes fishing styrofoam pieces out of a river or sifting them out of the sand at the beach and I guarantee you will go #foamfree.
3. Bring Your Own
Did you know that every single piece of plastic ever produced is still in existence? Or that it takes plastic 450 years to decompose? 90% of the trash I remove from the Pearl River watershed is single-use plastic. There are over 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the ocean. In the US alone, 2.5 million single-use plastic bottles are used EVERY HOUR. Recycling is not the answer. Most plastic sent to recycling centers is downcycled into other products such as carpet and plastic lumber. Recycling cannot keep up with the amount of virgin plastic produced every day. Plastic containers leach hormone-mimicking chemicals into food and drink, especially when exposed to hot temperatures. Why are we using a non-renewable resource to make a disposable product that is meant for a few minutes of use but that basically last forever? Make the pledge to refuse single-use plastic bottles, bring your own reusable shopping bags, and #skipthestraw. Let's stop sending our precious resources straight to a hole in the ground!
4. Minimize Fertilizers and Pesticides
Excess lawn fertilizer runs off into our watershed creating algae blooms that greatly reduce the oxygen availability in our water.
6. Plant a Rain Garden
7. Fish Responsibly
Discarded fishing line routinely entangles and kills wildlife, imperils swimmers and gets caught in propellers, damaging outboard motors. Littered bait containers photo-degrade into tiny pieces that attract other toxins in the water and are often eaten by fish. Eating fish that has been dining on plastic particles will cause toxins to pass to you. This spring alone, there were 13,057 pieces of trash removed from the Reservoir Spillway area by 150 different volunteers. This amount of trash on our local waterway has a broad spectrum of impacts: loss of tourism/business revenue, impairment of Jackson's drinking water source, increased crime associated with areas of blight, habitat degradation for 7 federally listed species and the rest of the Pearl River Basin ecosystem including oyster hatcheries downstream, and loss of community pride to name a few. Our community deserves clean fishable, swimmable, drinkable water.
8. Clean Your Watershed
Volunteer for the 1st annual Pearl River Clean Sweep, an epic river cleanup happening across 15 Mississippi counties, 2 Louisiana parishes and over 490 miles of beautiful river. Cleanup teams will be deployed along the Pearl River Watershed from its headwaters in Nanih Waiya, Mississippi, downriver through the Ross Barnett Reservoir, along the border of Mississippi and Louisiana, all the way to Pearlington on the Gulf Coast. For more information and to register, visit www.PearlRiverkeeper.com.
9. Get Involved
Join the Take2Miss social media campaign by picking up litter in your community. The next time you are out jogging, walking, boating, biking, heading to work or school, just pick up 2 pieces of litter, snap a pic and post it to Instagram or Facebook using #Take2Miss. Clean communities and a clean watershed are everyone's responsibility!
10. Spread the Word
One of the solutions to our community plastic pollution problem is increased recycling infrastructure and bottle deposit legislation. Please write to your Senators about the importance of a clean watershed and ask them to increase recycling opportunities for Mississippi and Louisiana:
Email Senator Wicker
Email Senator Cochran
Email Senator Kennedy
Email Senator Cassidy
Pearl Riverkeeper is a licensed member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, the largest and fastest growing nonprofit solely focused on clean water.