New draft for Yazoo Backwater Pumps show ‘wetlands’ face little danger from project

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VALLEY PARK, Miss. (WJTV) – A new draft released from the Vicksburg Army Corps of Engineers puts Delta farmers and homeowners the closest they’ve been in years to save their land from backwater floods. This draft of the project includes new data and location for the proposed site.

For the first time in two years, life has returned to the Mississippi South Delta with thousands of acres covered with cotton, soybeans, and livestock without any backwater engulfing it. Now with a new plan to build the pumps on the horizon farmers may never have to worry about this site going underwater again.

For five generations Victoria Darden’s family has harvested crops and cotton on more than 1,000 acres in Issaqueena County. Having a steady income for the first time since 2018 is a blessing.

“It was a really good feeling to be able to plant that seed and watch it grow,” Darden said. “See everything green out here instead of that nasty backwater that’s very depressing.”

This month the Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District laid out their second draft for the pump plans outlining new data to prove it’s needed.

“What has changed is we now understand that precipitation alone supports 87% of the wetlands in the project area,” Col. Robert Hilliard explained. “Not channel flood events which is what we use to think. That new data suggests that there’s a significant reduction in the number of wetland areas that would be impacted by the project.”

The pumps would only begin operating once backwater elevation reached above 87-feet pumping out water at 14,000 square feet-per-second.

“The proposed location right now is just east of Highway 61 and it’s called the Deer Creek site,” Col. Hilliard continued. “This new pump location does allow us to get to flood water location earlier and potentially move it out earlier.”

The public now has until Nov. 30. to send in their comments on the project plan. This can be done by mail or online to the Army Corps of Engineers office in Vicksburg.

“We also have the route of being able to text pumps to 50457 and it will send you through the process to comment,” Darden told us. “It takes less than 45 seconds, you do not have to live in the area to do it.”

“They can go to our website and see where to send those comments in,” Col. Hilliard added. “They can send them in by email directly to YazooBackwater@usace.army.mil.”

Engineers expect the project to run fully on natural gas and protect over 180,000 acres from backwater flood reducing the risk by 35%.

Plans to build the Yazoo Backwater Pump Project must now go through one more draft phase before they get their approval to head to D.C. It could be up for a vote in congress in 2021.

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