EPA HEAD TO HYDE-SMITH: AGENCY RECONSIDERING 2008 DECISION THAT HALTED DELTA FLOOD CONTROL PROJECT
Senator Presses EPA Administrator on Current and Past Flooding Disasters in South Delta
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today gained public verification that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reevaluating its 2008 decision to stop a critical flood control project for the Mississippi Delta, a region now suffering from yet-another major flood.
Hyde-Smith questioned EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler at an Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to review the FY2020 EPA budget request. Hyde-Smith used the opportunity to address flood control needs in the Yazoo Backwater Area.
“Unfortunately, the flooding, which began on February 15, continues today,” Hyde-Smith said. “At best, it will be another month before the floodwaters fully recede assuming the best of conditions.”
“Similar flooding has occurred not once, but 10 separate times—10—since EPA in 2008 prohibited the Corps from completing the final aspects of a 78-year-old comprehensive flood control effort. It has been going on as long as I can remember,” she said after focusing on flood damages to homes, schools, infrastructure, wildlife habitat, and farmlands.
In 2008, the EPA used a controversial Clean Water Act provision to prohibit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from constructing the last component of a comprehensive system of flood control improvements authorized in the Flood Control Act of 1941—a pumping facility to drain a 4,093 square-mile-area bound by federally-constructed levees to the south, east and west. Since then, the area has experienced numerous flood events resulting in more than a half-billion dollars in damages – most of which could have been prevented with the project in place.
“We can all agree that decisions made in 2008 have not only failed to meet the intent with respect to the environment, wildlife and habitat, but also placed a tremendous burden on the lives and property of thousands of Mississippians,” Hyde-Smith said, before asking Wheeler for a commitment “to work in good faith with the Corps of Engineers toward providing the adequate level of flood protection promised to Mississippians since 1941.”
In response, Wheeler noted that the EPA is working to provide emergency response assistance for the current Mississippi flood crisis, while acknowledging the agency is reevaluating the controversial 2008 decision.
“We are working with the Army Corps of Engineers; we're reviewing the decision that was made in 2008 to veto the Army Corps plan for Yazoo Pumps, trying to determine, in particular with the latest flooding, if that changes our determination and the work that went on in 2008 on reviewing that project. And we're reviewing more recent data and talking with the Army Corps on a near daily basis to try to figure out how we can be helpful to you, your constituents, and the Army Corps to ensure that the flooding is addressed and that we don’t have floods like this going into the future,” Wheeler told Hyde-Smith.
Hyde-Smith has toured the flooded regions which now span roughly 800 square miles. She has been working with her congressional colleagues, state and federal officials, and local organizations to address the flooding damage, which has put more than 510,000 acres of highly-productive agricultural lands under water. The Governor of Mississippi has declared a State of Emergency and the economic impact is likely to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Wednesday’s subcommittee hearing is available here, with Hyde-Smith’s exchange with Wheeler beginning near the 00:59:42 mark: https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/hearings/review-of-the-fy2020-budget-request-for-the-environmental-protection-agency