Leaders push for completion of Yazoo Backwater Pump Project

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VICKSBURG, Miss. (WJTV) – Big changes and big relief are finally in store for people living in the South Delta counties. In nine of the last ten years backwater flood has gotten the best of them

This is the most support the Yazoo Backwater Pump Project has ever had. The Environmental Protection Agency is now on board. So is the Army Corps of Engineers, both Mississippi U.S Senators, the Governor and Lt. Governor, as they ready to send off the final draft of the plan.

“The flooding in the South Delta is a government made problem,” Sen. Roger Wicker opened up with.

After back-to-back years of historic flooding with over half a million acres at one point underwater, the state and federal environment’s most powerful leaders met in Vicksburg to push forward the backwater pumps.

“Originally authorized 40 years ago, This is the final part of that project,” E.P.A Administrator Andrew Wheeler said. “It’s been explained to me that it’s like building a bathtub but without the drain. Well, this is the drain and it’s important to finish this project.”

As part of the new plan, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers studied how the wetlands in the South Delta turned out to be supplied through rainwater and not river runoff. The pumps would only kick on at 87 feet and run on natural gas. Plus a new location by the Sunflower Basin.

“Steele Bayou was the lowest point but yet Sunflower Basin is a larger basin and every flood is different,” Col. Robert Hilliard explained. “Depending on where the rain goes and the water flows where that pump goes and get to the water first in importance.”

The project would take up to four years to complete after breaking ground costing hundreds of millions. But after about $1 billion in agriculture revenue lost and property damage. So it was time to act.

“The price tag of not doing this project is infinitely larger than what it’s going to cost to actually do the pumps,” Gov. Tate Reeves announced.

The Audubon Mississippi Society and Sierra Club are against the plan. They fear draining the wetlands fully will kill off wildlife. Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson disagrees.

“We care more about the land than anyone because we work it every day,” Commissioner Gipson stated. “We depend on it. The flooding certainly is an environmental disaster not only for our farmers and Agriculture Economy in the South Delta but first the wildlife that use to live here.”

Some of the funding is already available but the rest will be voted on in congress later this year if the R.O.D gets finalized.

Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith expect to present the same arguments in the upcoming sessions while the E.P.A administration under Andrew Wheeler passes on this same plan to the new administration going forward.

Once the Army Corps of Engineers gets the green light on the project, they can break ground on the station. When that happens, the pumps could be completed in about four years.

Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) released the following statement about the event:

Last week, my office inquired about an event by the EPA in my district that would take place on Monday. After several unsuccessful efforts to find out exactly what it was, we received a program already established that included the senators and not me as Congressman on the project late Thursday afternoon. We subsequently inquired as to why this program was put together on something as important as the project of the pumps and did not include me. Since the invitation came so late and others were contacted before me to be on a program, I was not able to change an existing commitment. If EPA had been forthright in the planning of the event, I am certain I could have participated.”

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

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