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Hood will sue Corps of Engineers over damage to Mississippi Gulf Coast

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Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that he will file suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to require the federal government to pay for the extensive environmental and economic damage to the Mississippi Gulf Coast caused by the repeated and lengthy openings of the Bonnet Carré Spillway earlier this year.

The lawsuit, which will be filed in the name of the State of Mississippi, will also seek to protect the Gulf Coast from future damage by requiring the Corps to adopt updated and scientifically sound methods of flood control and by requiring the Corps to consider the impacts of spillway openings on Mississippi. Federal law requires the State to give the Corps 60 days notice before filing the lawsuit.

“Mississippi should not be the federal government’s dumping ground for polluted flood waters,” Hood said in a statement. “Our State’s environment and economy must be considered and protected just as the Corps protects the environment and economy of our neighboring states.”

The Bonnet Carré Spillway was opened for a record 123 days in 2019. Based on the Corps’ numbers, a total of 1.35 trillion cubic feet (almost 10 trillion gallons) of Mississippi River water was discharged through the spillway during that time. That discharge is equivalent to the volume of more than 15 million Olympic-size swimming pools, which, if laid end to end, would circle the Earth more than 18 times.

The water of the Mississippi River carries with it industrial pollutants from 31 states and two Canadian provinces, according to the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies. When the Corps repeatedly opened the Bonnet Carré Spillway in 2019, trillions of gallons of this polluted water was dumped into the Mississippi Sound.

The environmental and economic damage to the Mississippi Gulf Coast from the influx of trillions of gallons of polluted fresh water has been devastating. The Mississippi Sound is home to abundant populations of oysters, crabs, shrimp, fish and dolphins.

“The spillway opening has destroyed the State’s oyster reefs, decimated the crab and shrimp catch, and killed more dolphins than the 2010 BP Oil Spill,” Hood said.

Recreational fishing has been damaged because of toxic algae blooms caused by the influx of fresh water. Coast beaches were closed to swimming during the height of the tourist season because of the algae blooms.

The full extent of the damage to Mississippi’s environment and economy may not be known for years. Repeated openings of the Bonnet Carré Spillway in 2019 and future years will likely cause more overall harm to Mississippi than the one-time BP Oil Spill.

The Attorney General has three goals for this lawsuit against the Corps. First, Hood will seek to recover funds to compensate for the harm to the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s economy and environment. Second, Hood will seek to recover funds to rebuild and rehabilitate the oyster reefs and other damaged marine habitat and populations. Third, Hood will seek to limit future damage by directing the Corps to study the environmental impact of spillway openings on the Mississippi Sound and to adopt new procedures for flood control. The protocols for operating spillways are outdated, having been established in the 1930s and 1950s, and do not address the present and future conditions of the Mississippi River.

“The current approach to managing the Mississippi River must be reexamined,” Hood said. “The Corps must look both up-river and down-river to find ways to better protect Mississippians and the Mississippi Sound. I refuse to accept that the country that tests rocket engines at the Stennis Space Center cannot find a way to manage the Mississippi River without harming the Mississippi Sound. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. This lawsuit will give the Corps the will to change its practices to protect Mississippi.

“Our State is blessed with abundant seafood and beautiful beaches. Many hardworking Mississippians depend on fishing and tourism to make a living. For too long, Mississippi’s interests have been ignored. If we do not take immediate action to require the Corps to change its approach to flood control and limit the use of the Bonnet Carré Spillway, these ways of life will be threatened”

The attorney general is also working with the secretary of state, who also serves as the state land commissioner, to explore all options concerning damages to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“As we move forward, I intend to work closely with all stakeholders, including the Gulf Coast’s county and municipal officials, along with the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, to ensure that the Corps fully understands the damage caused to the Mississippi Sound,” Hood said.

The lawsuit will seek relief under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and contain other claims under federal law and Mississippi law.

 

COVID-19

Warren County reports 35 new COVID-19 cases Saturday; Mississippi reports 1,942

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New COVID-19 cases continued in double digits Saturday in Warren County with 35 new cases reported.

Mississippi is reporting the 11th consecutive day of reporting more than 1,000 new cases per day, with three days of reporting more than 2,000 new cases. The state’s seven-day average of new cases is now over 1,900 per day, with 13,518 new cases reported in the last week. The highest seven-day average in July was around 1,360 for the week ending July 30.

Hospitalizations are nearing the July high of around 1,250. Unlike the July surge, however, more patients are hospitalized with confirmed cases than ever before in the state.

Nationally, the cumulative cases in the U.S. have soared to over 14.5 million. At least 2,637 people died of the virus Friday and 229,077 new cases were reported. While some progress in lowering case numbers has been seen in the Midwest recently, slowing the rate of increase across the nation, cases continue to surge almost everywhere else in the country. As expected, however, the rate of deaths continues to increase steeply, with a 42% increase just in the past two weeks. The number of people hospitalized across the nation now exceeds 101,000.

In Warren County, MSDH reported 35 new COVID-19 cases Saturday and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,930, and the county’s death toll is 59. The seven-day average of new cases in the county has risen to 23.1, more than four times higher than in early November when the average was about five cases per day.

Statewide, MSDH reported 1,942 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 163,458. The seven-day average of new cases is 1,931.1 per day, about 1,174 cases higher than the seven-day average a month ago, when the state’s numbers were already on the rise. The current averages exceed the numbers seen at the height of the last surge in July.

At the beginning of the crises, the age group with the most COVID-19 cases were those over 65. Now, most new cases are seen in younger people who are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. In September, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi were 18 to 24 years old. That has shifted to a slightly older group. In November, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are from 25 to 39 years old followed by those 50 to 64 years old.

MSDH reported Saturday that 33 more Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,949. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.5%. This rate has dropped as the number of cases are going up faster than the number of deaths at this time.

Deaths are a lagging indicator. While July saw the highest number of new cases since the crisis began, August saw the highest number of deaths. The highest number of deaths in any one day in Mississippi was 67 reported Aug. 25.

Of the 33 deaths MSDH reported Saturday, 24 occurred between Nov. 28 and Dec. 4 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Saturday
Alcorn 2
Attala 1
Coahoma 2
Covington 2
Desoto 1
Forrest 2
Hinds 1
Lauderdale 1
Leflore 1
Madison 1
Marion 2
Panola 1
Pearl River 1
Pontotoc 1
Rankin 1
Winston 3
Yalobusha 1

An additional nine COVID-19 related deaths occurred between Oct. 22 and Nov. 25 and were identified from death certificate reports.

County Deaths identified from death certificate reports
Calhoun 1
Chickasaw 1
Clarke 1
Desoto 1
Hancock 1
Harrison 1
Jones 1
Lafayette 1
Tishomingo 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4. MSDH usually reports statistics on the COVID-19 coronavirus each day based on the previous day’s testing and death reports.

The primary metric concerning state health officials are the numbers of people hospitalized, and that number rose steadily with the rise of new cases in July and August. On June 6, the number of Mississippians hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 was at 358. Hospitalizations tripled by late July.

Hospitalizations then steadily dropped through Oct. 3 when they began rising again along with increased cases. The last week in October, hospitalizations began levelling off; however, since Nov. 4 hospitals have seen a steady rise in COVID-19 patients once again.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, was 1,188, 99% of the late July peak of about 1,200. The number includes 1,068 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 120 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 276 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 156 were on ventilators.

Source: MSDH

MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 128,746 through Sunday, Nov. 29. It represents about 78.8% of the cumulative 163,458 cases reported as of Saturday, Dec. 5.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Saturday, Nov. 14, was 1,649, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,590, or about 82.4% of the 1,930 cumulative cases reported as of Saturday, Dec. 5. The county has an estimated 281 active cases.

These estimates are based on MSDH’s guidelines for calculating estimated recoveries when hospitalizations are not known, using the number of cases 21 days ago, less known outcomes (deaths).

The total number of Mississippians tested for COVID-19 (PCR and antigen tests identifying current infections) as of Saturday, Nov. 28, is 1,315,279 or about 44.2% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. MSDH reports statewide test results once a week. Without daily updated numbers of tests, it is impossible to accurately calculate Mississippi’s positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average); however, the estimated rate was 27.2% Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 10.3%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 200 Saturday, an increase of six since Friday. About 37.5%, or 1,482, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities. The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in LTC facilities is 8,015, less than 5% of the state’s total cases.

A total of 27 deaths in Warren County were residents of LTC facilities.

MSDH is no longer reporting outbreaks in individual long-term care facilities in Mississippi and has replaced it with access to a database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. You can access and search the data by provider here. The latest data available is for the week ending Nov. 22.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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Events

Reindeer Run 5k brings out crowds on Catfish Row

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(photo by Keith Phillips)

Runners and their supporters braved the cold Saturday morning for the annual Reindeer Run 5k.

The event, which began at 8 a.m., is in support of Paws Rescue, a Vicksburg no-kill animal shelter.

The run began and ended at Catfish Row next to LD’s Kitchen, and was followed by a pet parade.

Organizers helped the run start off smoothly, and they had plenty of assistance from the Vicksburg Police Department and the Warren County Sheriff’s office.

(photo by Keith Phillips)

These competitors are having fun with their masks. (photo by Keith Phillips)

(photo by Keith Phillips)

Some runners came dressed up in the spirit of the season. (photo by Keith Phillips)

Santa and Mrs. Claus confer with the the reindeer. (photo by Keith Phillips)

(photo by Keith Phillips)

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Search on the Mississippi enters third day; volunteers asked to coordinate with law enforcement

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Search efforts are being coordinated over a wide area. (photo by Thomas Parker)

Search efforts have entered a third day for two young men missing on the Mississippi River near LeTourneau Landing.

The young men, Gunner Palmer, 16, from Copiah County, and Zeb Hughes, 21, of Wesson, Mississippi, went out on a boat Thursday with their dog to find a good spot for duck hunting near Davis Island. They have not been heard from since Thursday.

Multiple police and fire agencies in the region have responded to a request for assistance for overland search and rescue, and the effort is being coordinated over a large search area.

Private individuals who are volunteering to search must also coordinate with law enforcement to ensure public safety and to preserve any evidence. Volunteers wishing to assist should coordinate through the incident command located south of LeTourneau Landing or contact Warren County Fire Coordinator Jerry Briggs at 601-218-9911.

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