Army Corps of Engineers emphasizes Backwater Pumps pose no environmental harm to ‘wetlands’

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VICKSBURG, Miss. (WJTV) – After releasing phase two of their draft to complete the Yazoo Backwater Pump Project the U.S Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District held their only virtual town hall meeting for public comment.

UPDATE: 9:35 p.m.

For Delta farmers and homeowners it was another chance to back up the agency’s research showing the future of livelihoods and homes rely on the project.

This isn’t the first time pumping stations getting built in the South Delta have been brought forward since it’s been on the table after the flood controls act first passed by Congress in 1941. Experts with the Army Corps of Engineers took questions illustrating how the project is necessary and not deadly to wetlands.

Before the final draft heads to Washington in 2021 for a vote the Army Corps of Engineers took another opportunity to connect with people about their intentions.

“Published data now shows that approximately 87% of wetlands are sustained by precipitation alone rather than over banked flooding,” Col. Robert Hilliard said. “The new data shows the pumps will not convert any wetlands to uplands.”

The purposed site has changed to Deer Creek along the Basin northeast of the Steele Bayou Gates. Running on natural gas and only partially kick on once the backwater reaches 87-ft.

“The project will include mitigation features that will improve conditions for wildlife,” an expert said. “The structural component of the project will impact environmental resources and those un-avoided impacts will be mitigated. Which will offset any unavoidable losses to Wetlands, terrestrials, water vowel, and aquatic resources.”

Going farther in the draft, when the Steele Bayou gates are fully open water flow downstream moves at about 45,000 cubic feet-per-second. With all 12 pumps operating the station would only add another 14,000. Putting no land south in danger of flooding.

“Including the 1,000,000+ CFS going down the river already or higher 14,000 CFS doesn’t really impact that body of water,” an engineer explained. “We’re looking somewhere around a quarter of afoot. It would be almost immeasurable in terms of the amount of water going down the river.”

One party openly disapproving of the project was Audubon Mississippi fearing the pumps will throw off the ecosystem harming bird species. In June, Audubon, along with more than 100 conservation and taxpayer groups, delivered over 38,000 comments to the Corps in opposition. Over 70 percent of the scoping comments received by the Corps were against the Pumps. 

“The Pumps are not designed to alleviate flooding; during the 2019 Flood, the Corps’ admitted that 68% of the backwater area would still be underwater even with the Pumps in place,” Audubon Policy Director Jill Mastrototaro stated in an email. “Audubon is calling for immediate, effective flood solutions to get people out of harm’s way while protecting the area’s natural resources.”

We expect to hear more from the Audubon Mississippi Chapter in the near future about their alternatives to the pump project in the near future.

Almost 800 people who did comment overwhelmingly posted “finish the pumps”. If you still want to send your opinion to the corps you have until Nov. 30. by sending an email to YazooBackwater@USACE.army.mil or call/text (601) 392-2237.

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