Posted on August 31, 2023
Army Corps of Engineers gives St. Tammany Parish the OK to dredge a section of the Pearl River Navigation Canal
Boaters in St. Tammany Parish may soon have an easier time navigating the waters of the Pearl River Navigation Canal now that the Army Corps has given the parish the greenlight to dredge a section of the waterway.
The stretch of Pearl River canal, near Lock #1 about 15 miles north of Slidell, is a popular local destination. But the water off the boat launch there has often been too shallow to navigate, and accumulating silt near a half-century old sill have proven dangerous.
The parish’s Department of Public works started clearing the section of the canal this week and are preparing to accept bids to complete the $2.2 million project that aims to dredge 3,000 cubic yards of silt from the area where the canal meets the West Pearl River.
“Today marks a long overdue and fantastic day for our boaters, fisherman and hunters on the beautiful West Pearl River,” said Parish President Mike Cooper. “For years, our citizens had limited access to the West Pearl River from Lock #1 due to the buildup of sediment along the canal.”
Janice O’Berry, a resident of Pearl River, said that that section of the canal, which will also get a new boat launch, can be treacherous due to low water levels. “That’s our biggest problem. You cannot get safely in and out,” she said last week. “People have gotten hurt.”
Officials said Monday that this new project lessens the risk to boaters along that stretch of the Pearl, and makes it easier for rescue operations to take place if they’re necessary.
“Our Marine Unit has been limited to utilizing only small flat boats due to the shallow waters in that portion of the river,” said St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith. “Having that area dredged will allow the Sheriff’s Office to have more resources available to respond to those citizens who are in need and in a much faster manner.”
For St. Tammany Parish Council member Cheryl Tanner the recent groundbreaking on the project was a personal victory. Her late husband, Council member Richard Tanner, had championed the project before he died in 2020.
“It took us a year to get the Army Corps to grant us the permits,” she said. It took some pushing, Tanner said, but ultimately, “We were successful.”
Environmental groups are wary of development along the nearby Pearl River, which is one of the most biodiverse waterways in the country. An ambitious plan to curb flooding in Jackson, Mississippi, involves damming a section of the Pearl to create a 1,500-acre lake. The plan’s detractors worry that project would doom the southern part of the river that runs through St. Tammany Parish.