U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials, both of this region's sitting U.S. senators and a host of representatives inked their signatures to a joint cost sharing/feasibility agreement that will address major flooding issues in Mississippi's fastest growing county.
District 3 Supervisor Bill Russell remarked Friday's official signing ceremony inside the third-floor meeting room at the DeSoto County Administrative Building marked the first time in his memory that both sitting U.S. senators were both in the same room at the same time and Russell said the special occasion called for a gathering of Mississippi's top elected leadership.
"This is a great occasion," U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker said as he sat at a long table flanked by Corps officials, DeSoto County Supervisors and mayors and aldermen from all five of DeSoto County's municipalities. "It does point out that when you do something of this magnitude it does take a partnership. We've had state, local and federal joining hands as partners. That's how we have been able to accomplish so much here in DeSoto County. It's just phenomenal to think every now and then about the excellent growth that we've had in DeSoto County."
For her part, U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith lauded the efforts and partnership between state, local and federal officials.
"This effort to bring much needed flood relief to north DeSoto County is long overdue, and represents an important first step toward a positive solution," said Hyde-Smith, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee. "This was truly a team effort that illustrates wise, responsible use of taxpayer dollars."
It was Hyde-Smith who worked in the footsteps of her predecessor U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, along with Wicker, to secure $1.5 million in the Mississippi River and Tributaries Appropriations for the DeSoto County project.
The $3 million feasibility study - which includes $1.5 million from the Corps of Engineers and the remainder from state and local funds - will allow the Corps and local governments to map out a plan for flood control measures and the clock is running, according to Col. Michael A. Ellicott, Jr., Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Memphis Division.
"We have three years from today, from the time we sign this to get this feasibility study done,” Ellicott said. “We will get everybody together. It's a culmination of years of hard work," said Ellicott, adding that the Congressional delegation was to be commended for their involvement.
"We have to thank our Congressional delegation for all their hard work," Ellicott said.
"There is a total overall appropriation of $300 million in federal funds nationwide to reinvest in critical infrastructure," according to Ellicott. DeSoto County's flood control study is one of 70 projects.
As DeSoto County Supervisor Lee Caldwell pointed out, DeSoto County has several ambitious projects to control flooding, including an estimated $36 million project to rebuild two bridges along flood-prone Holly Springs Road and raise the roadbed. Other flood prone areas to be studied include U.S. Hwy. 51 near Horn Lake, along Miss. Hwy. 302 or Goodman Road, Byhalia Road and Miss. Hwy. 305.
Caldwell presided over a visual presentation of flood prone areas in DeSoto County.
"We wanted to go back and remind everybody of what brought us to this table," Caldwell said, adding that Holly Springs Road has had to be closed on average seven times a year due to flooding of the Coldwater River.
"This is a great partnership," Horn Lake Mayor Allen Latimer said. "It is truly a historic occasion. They have worked hard and brought this all together. For the citizens of Horn Lake, I thank you."
Walls Mayor Patti Denison and Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite were also in attendance.
"You showed us that our voices have been heard," Musselwhite said, adding that he has personally experienced flooding in Southaven and swiftwater rescues in homes and apartments by emergency personnel in which water moccasins were slithering about.
Olive Branch Alderman Gil Earhart represented his city at the gathering of state, federal and local officials.
"Our citizens are very grateful," Earhart said. "The neat thing about this is that they will have the water out of their houses and have safe roads and bridges on which to travel."
Hernando Alderman Andrew Miller represented the City of Hernando along with Ward 4 Alderman Michael McLendon.
"The most important thing we take out of this is the teamwork that we have in DeSoto County, "Miller said. "You can always do more together than you can separately."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.