WASHINGTON (WLOX) - U.S. Senator Roger Wicker wants the federal government to have a better plan the next time waters rise in the Mississippi River.
The senator on Wednesday submitted a formal request to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to authorize a comprehensive study of water management techniques, structures, and features along the Lower Mississippi River in the 2020 Water Resources Development Act.
Wicker also pushed representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consider adjustments to flood control infrastructure to reduce the severity of impacts from the opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway.
This year the spillway remained open for 123 days, resulting in fisheries loss and economic impacts for Mississippi’s coast communities.
"We certainly want to do what we can on Mississippi River flooding, but I just don’t think it has to be done at the expense of our small business people and residents who depend on the saltwater of the Mississippi Sound," Wicker said.
While agreeing with the need for more study on the issue, Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, Commanding General and Chief of Engineers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, defended the decision to open the spillway.
"We would welcome a study. Anything we can do to do this better, we want to do. But the last thing we want to do is hold water back and kill a human when we're trying to preserve the environment. The environment is important, but it's that balance that's going to be hard to manage," Semonite said.
Other participants in Wednesday’s hearing included Ryan A. Fisher, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) and Charlotte Bertrand, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Policy, Office of Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.