Miss. Senator Says Solid Scientific Data Demonstrates Backwater Flooding Causes Severe Environmental Damage

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today praised the release of a Mississippi Levee Board (MSLB) statement that succinctly outlines the severe and ongoing environmental harm caused by the persistent flooding in the Yazoo Backwater Area.

The MSLB issued the statement on Wednesday to refute erroneous information that Army Corps of Engineers construction of the last remaining feature of the congressionally authorized Yazoo Backwater Project would be an environmental disaster for Mississippi.

“Even as we fight the COVID-19 crisis, Mississippians in the Yazoo Backwater Area also fighting a third consecutive year of catastrophic flooding.  Since mid-January 460,000 acres are underwater,” Hyde-Smith said.  “The Mississippi Levee Board deserves credit for focusing our attention on the environmental damages caused by perpetual Yazoo Backwater flooding—flooding that can be mitigated by finally building the pumps.”

“Everyone needs to understand that our ongoing flood disaster in the South Delta not only affects homes, property, and public infrastructure, it also causes long-lasting harm to water quality, forests, wildlife, aquatic species, and the underlying wetlands,” she said.  “We have 12 years of scientific data and 10 separate flood events since 2008 to prove it.”

The MSLB statement strikes at false claims related to damage to wetlands, fish and wildlife, tree stands, and other ecological resources.  It also outlines the flood mitigation and environmental benefits provided with construction of the Yazoo Backwater Project, which was halted in 2008 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Read the statement here.

Hyde-Smith, who serves on Senate appropriations subcommittees with funding and authorization jurisdiction of the Army Corps and EPA, has been working with both agencies to reach an agreement to allow the construction of the Yazoo Backwater Project.

“Individuals and organizations that truly care about the environment, wildlife, and outdoor recreation should support this common-sense effort.  Fiscal conservatives also should be at the top of the list in support,” Hyde-Smith said.  “The federal government has spent hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars during flood years since 2008, which is a mere fraction of the total taxpayer dollars spent on damage response, rather than prevention.  I commend the Army Corps, EPA, and this Administration for understanding this,” Hyde-Smith said.   

With the Steele Bayou Structure Gates currently closed, the Yazoo Backwater is rising.  It is currently at 95.7 feet, which has 460,000 acres underwater including 176,000 acres of cropland, which will likely go unplanted this year. In March, the Yazoo Backwater reached 96.6 feet, which has flooded 490,000 acres on the protected side of the levee.