Study: Warren Co. economy depends mightily on river

Published 6:52 pm Friday, February 28, 2014

Warren County is in the highest-rated tier of counties and parishes along the Lower Mississippi River when it comes to overall revenue generated by the river, according to a study by a conservation group.

Countywide, there’s a $2.26 billion impact in annual river-related revenue and nearly 8,000 river-related jobs in findings released this past week by the Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee. The study didn’t break out totals for each of the 113 counties and parishes along the lower river system, but Warren is showed having the same or more economic impact from manufacturing, energy production, tourism, agriculture and other river-related sectors as areas with higher populations, such Desoto County, Miss. and East Baton Rouge Parish, La.

Warren County was included in the same range as New Orleans and Memphis in travel and tourism spending. Researchers showed Warren with more than $155 million in economic impact from tourism-related visitorship and employment, buoyed by visitors to the Vicksburg National Military Park and Civil War-era historic sites. Visitor spending in New Orleans from 2003-11 came in at $5.3 billion; Memphis’ tourism industry produced $3.1 billion.

Timber harvest revenues in Warren exceeded $4 million in 2011, the most recent year for which stats for all seven states were available. The mark put the county in the second tier of timber producers, along with Yazoo and Humphreys. In a range showing $7.3 million or more in Mississippi were Claiborne, Jefferson and Wilkinson counties.

Warren also is home to 13 oil- and gas-producing wells, the study says, citing statistics for 2011 from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. The county produced 40,972 barrels of crude oil that year, or fourth-most out of six counties that showed amounts. Revenue from oil production totaled $6,152.

In all, the seven states in the lower river region showed $151.7 billion in river-related revenue and 585,000 river-related jobs.  The study is part of a broader project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to document information needs, recreation needs and habitat needs along the Lower Mississippi River, the study’s authors said.

LMRCC said the review was done to develop a profile of the Lower Mississippi River system for future decision-making and management. It noted the past decade has been “particularly turbulent” for the region in terms of natural disasters and other events, including hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the economic recession, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, the record-breaking river flood in 2011 and an extreme drought in 2012.

LMRCC is composed of wildlife and fisheries departments from Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky, federal agencies such as the Corps, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture and a separate, five-person staff of coordinators and specialists.