For five generations, the Jones family has worked the same sawmill. The quality hardwood lumber they produce literally travels the world. But, each year, they wonder if this year could be their last.
J.M. Jones Lumber Company survived the Mississippi River floods of 1927, 1973 and 2011. Now, the fight against the river happens almost every year, according to Howard Jones, Vice President of J.M. Jones Lumber and fourth generation forester.
“The ground, the seepage, is tremendous now because the river has been up for so long,” Jones said. “I don’t know if this is just going to be the new norm, you know. They talk about having 100 year floods and 500 year floods, well, we’re having them every other year now.”
Jones and his family began building their own levee system around their lumber yard in 1997. It holds the river out, but with the vibration caused by the sawmill and the soaked ground from the rainfall, the family has to shut the mill down for days at a time so the ground won’t crumble out from underneath them.
Still, Jones has spoken to everyone who will listen about changes that can be made to slow flooding.
“There’s now a lawsuit that Delbert Hosemann, the Secretary of State, has filed on behalf of the 16th Section School Lands against the Corp of Engineers,” Jones said. “Private landowners who hold over 300,000 acres and are tired of their land being flooded have now joined in this lawsuit.”
Despite holding back the water at the mill, Jones is also concerned about the damage flooding will do to the forests he logs and the future of those trees. Many species of trees have not adapted the ability to sit in water for months at a time, making the trees degrade at a rapid rate. Also, Mississippi River flood waters leave sand behind, making the soil less than ideal for new trees to grow. Jones says this will affect the timber industry in the near future.
Combined with a 25 percent tariff on his goods going into China, Jones feels surrounded on all sides and left wondering when or if it will all end.
“If the river wasn’t so high and hadn’t been so high for so long, we would be logging in the batture land. That land has a lot of the species that we don’t sell to China,” he said. “The number one species we sell to China is red oak. Red oak grows in the hills, and we’re forced to work in the hills right now because we cannot get in the swamps. The two problems are really tired together. It’s terrible timing to have a high tariff with China.”