Development on lakes could raise tax base

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Development on lakes could raise tax base

The U. S. Corps of Engineers is seeking public input on Project Master Plans for for its four north Mississippi flood control lakes.

Leaders of Panola and other counties surrounding Enid, Sardis, Grenada and Arkabutla Lakes should use this as an opportunity to ask the Corps to allow limited areas of Corps-owned land near the lakes to return to private hands for ownership that would be subject to county ad valorem taxation.

“The Project Master Plan is the strategic land use managment document that guides the comprehensive management and development of all project recreation, natural and cultural resources,” according to the statement on the Corps’ website inviting public comment. “The goal of the update is to identify the best management practices to respond to regional needs, resource capabilities, and expressed public interests consistent with the authorized project purposes.”

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The Master Plan update has also been the focus of a series of public meetings conducted by officials from each lake.

During the 1930s and 1940s the government purchased from private landowners in the Coldwater, Tallahatchie, Yocona and Yalobusha Rivers’ bottoms and adjacent hills thousands of acres to clear for construction of the reservoirs. It was no easy process. Families were displaced and moved elsewhere. In some families, the bitterness was passed down to succeeding generations. Faced with the prospect of losing their home places, a few even committed suicide, but the vast majority accepted what they saw as inevitable and even adopted the perspective that the sacrifice of their hill land would promote a greater good of protecting many millions of acres fertile Delta farmland from flooding downstream.
Now, up to eight decades past that massive transfer of land to public ownership, re-evaluation should be part of the Master Plans now under consideration. Specifically, land adjacent to lakes and located at high enough elevations to be above the maximum containment water levels — the “summer pools” — should be identified and included in a plan for return to private ownership.

Private land available closer to the lakes could open premium development, placing it on the ad valorem tax rolls of adjacent counties. That land has been missing from tax rolls for up to 80 years in some cases while downstream agricultural land has been made taxable and protected from flooding.

Granted, there is opposition to any change that would lessen Corps control of areas next to the flood control, primarily from Delta interests, but it is only fair that consideration be given to the hill counties whose land was removed from tax rolls all those years ago if it can be done without interfering with the control of Delta flooding. That’s what a Master Plan needs to consider. That’s what county leaders need to encourage.

Public comment can be made by email to any of the four north Mississippi flood control reservoirs: Arkabutla:; Sardis:;; Grenada: or by mail to Mississippi Project Office, 29361 Highway 315, Sardis, MS, 38606 or phone, 662-578-3873.