The lawsuit filed attempts to derail the approved flooding mitigation project.
A coalition of conservation organizations represented by Earthjustice, a non-profit public interest envirionmental law organization, filed a lawsuit today challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval of the Yazoo Pumps. That approval was given in the closing days of the Trump Administration.
This coalition of liberal extremist environmental groups threatened this lawsuit back in February, saying then that the Corps was in unlawful defiance of science and claiming that the plan would be harmful to wildlife in the region.
The lawsuit puts the environmentalist groups at odds with a bi-partisan political coalition and almost unanimous local support. The Yazoo Pumps project has the support of the Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith and 2nd District Congressman and House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, challenges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for abdicating its obligations under the Endangered Species Act.
In December 2020, the Army Corps of Engineers released its final pump plan. U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith praised its release, noting that it addressed flood reduction and the environmental benefits of its new Proposed Plan to address catastrophic flooding in the South Mississippi Delta.
In January 2021, then-EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler visited Mississippi and emphasized the agency’s continued commitment to working with the Corps as they seek to provide a long-term, viable solution to flooding in the Yazoo Backwater Area. The EPA had accepted the Corps’ request to act as a cooperating agency back in May 2020 as the Corps worked to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Yazoo Pumps Project.
The groups challenging the pump plan this is an unprecedented effort that illegally revokes EPA’s 2008 long-standing veto while circumventing bedrock environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. They say in a release announcing the lawsuit that more than 55,000 citizens, scientists, and public interest groups objected to the Corps’ incomplete and inadequate analysis of the project, submitting extensive comments demonstrating that the Corps ignored the scientific data and law.
“Instead of making a decision based on the science and law, the Corps recklessly approved this ineffective, destructive, and wasteful project,” said Earthjustice attorney Stu Gillespie in the release. “The Corps failed to inform the public about the project’s unacceptable costs and refused to consider alternatives that would provide prompt, effective and environmentally sound flood relief to communities.”
Tom Kiernan, President and CEO of American Rivers called Corps’ continued focus on building the Yazoo Pumps “irresponsible,” saying there are better, more cost-effective solutions available.
“Time after time, the Yazoo Pumps have been shown to be the big lie,” said Louie Miller, State Director for the Mississippi Chapter of the Sierra Club. “The Pumps are not intended to protect communities from flooding but are designed to benefit agribusiness by draining wetlands to intensify farming.”
Jill Mastrotaro, policy director with Audubon Mississippi, said their lawsuit is a last line of defense to protect birds, wildlife and people by ensuring local communities get the effective flood relief solutions they deserve.”
Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson said in December 2020 that the Yazoo Pumps were a critical project that needs to move forward.
“I am very pleased to see this critical project moving forward in a way to support Mississippi agriculture and all Mississippi communities affected by the historic floods,” Gipson said then. “Not only is the Yazoo Area Pump Project vital to supporting Mississippi’s farmers and agriculture in the South Delta, but the project will safeguard long-term wildlife populations as well. I appreciate the Trump administration EPA’s support of the project and call on Congress to approve the necessary funding as soon as possible.”
The lawsuit can be read below.