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Mississippi to sue Corps over extended opening of spillway

Posted at 4:09 PM, Oct 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-24 23:10:12-04

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi's attorney general said Thursday that he will sue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for environmental and economic damage the state experienced after the Corps opened a spillway for two extended periods this year to protect New Orleans from flooding.

Attorney General Jim Hood is the Democratic nominee for governor, facing Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and two other candidates in the Nov. 5 election.

At a news conference on the vote-rich Mississippi Gulf Coast, Hood announced he's giving the federal government 60 days' notice, as required, of his intention to sue.

The Bonnet Carre spillway is a flood-control structure on the Mississippi River north of New Orleans. After floodwaters from the Midwest poured southward, the Corps opened the spillway from Feb. 27 to April 10 and again from May 10 to July 26.

Hood said the freshwater pouring into the Gulf of Mexico killed some marine life and damaged Mississippi's oyster industry. Mississippi beaches closed for weeks because of toxic algae growth, and coast officials have said that hurt tourism that sustains a big part of the local economy.

"Mississippi doesn't deserve to be a dumping ground," Hood said.

Hood said he does not want New Orleans to flood but the Corps should better assess potential damage to Mississippi when deciding whether to open the Bonnet Carre spillway. He said if the federal government decides to open the spillway often, "they'll have to pay for it because it's just about put our seafood industry out of business."

In September, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross declared fishing disasters for seven states, including Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. A statement from the Commerce Department said a regional disaster for those three states because of "extreme flooding events in the Gulf of Mexico."

Hood ends his fourth term as Mississippi attorney general in January. He said he hopes the next attorney general will continue the lawsuit that he will file in late December.

Although the Corps of Engineers has legal immunity over much of what it does, the Sun Herald reported that Hood said he doesn't believe the immunity will apply in the suit he will file. He said he is using private attorneys to help in the case.