A group of five liberal environmentalist groups headed by Earthjustice issued a public threat to sue the EPA over their decision to complete the Yazoo Pumps project in the south Mississippi Delta. Other groups include Audubon Mississippi, American Rivers, Healthy Gulf, and the Mississippi Sierra Club.
For years, flooding due in parts to both record rains and Mississippi River channel manipulation have left backwater flooding that has impacted over 500,000 acres, devastated farming operations, impacted thousands of residents and damaged wildlife throughout the region.
In 2019, the Yazoo backwater area was flooded for 219 days affecting 231 homes, 230,000 acres of cropland unable to be planted, and submerged three state highways.
In December 2020, the Army Corps of Engineers issued their final impact statement stating that the Yazoo Pumps project, originated in 1982, was “technically feasible, environmentally justified, in accordance with environmental statutes and in the public interest”. Just weeks before, a November 30 EPA Region 4 letter to the Corps regarding the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement stated, “The EPA fully supports the purpose of the project to reduce flood damages in the Yazoo Backwater Area.
“The Corps’ unlawful defiance of science at the expense this globally significant area will not be tolerated,” said Jill Mastrototaro, Audubon Mississippi’s Policy Director. “The Pumps will degrade at least 39,000 acres of wetlands and leave over 80 percent of the Yazoo Backwater under water — clearly this a bad deal for birds, wildlife and people.”
However, local residents disagree.
“People don’t understand how bad this has been,” Eddie Hatcher, District 1 Supervisor for Issaquena County told the Commission as part of its public forum in June. “I live on (Route) 465 in the floodwater, and when I go out every day … there are new dead animals along the highways or laying out in the yard.
“Wildlife is our resource in the Delta. We do not want to lose our resource.”
In addition to support from the US Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Yazoo Pumps project has bipartisan political support from US Senators Roger Wicker (R) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) and 2nd District Congressman Bennie Thompson (D), whose district encompasses the flooded area. The project also enjoys support from statewide elected officials including Governor Tate Reeves, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson, all Republicans.