HYDE-SMITH STRESSES NEED FOR YAZOO BACKWATER PUMPS TO FEDS MEETING IN VICKSBURG
Interagency Working Group Convenes in Miss. to Learn More on Desperate South Delta Flood Control Needs
VICKSBURG, MISS. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today addressed federal officials to again stress the need for the federal government to construct a pumping station to successfully deliver effective flood protection to the Yazoo Backwater Area of the South Delta.
Hyde-Smith was among members of the congressional delegation who participated in presentations on Wednesday to an Interagency Working Group, which was formed after the Biden administration canceled work on the Yazoo Backwater Area Pumps Project in November 2021.
“As federal agencies and special interest groups continue to debate pumps vs. no pumps, it seems forgotten the United States Congress decided that a long time ago,” Hyde-Smith said. “The authorized Yazoo Backwater Area Project calls for an intricate system of flood control features—levees, floodgates, drainage channels, and pumping stations—to protect a nearly 1,500-square-mile area. That system cannot function without all of its parts. And clearly, it’s not.”
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one of the world’s largest and most respected public engineering agencies, has studied the Yazoo Backwater Area Project for nearly four decades,” the Senator added. “The Corps has not been able to identify any other practicable way to manage such enormous volumes of water, other than a pumping station.”
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan told Hyde-Smith in May that an interagency group would soon “agree on what we believe to be a legally-sound and engineering-durable solution to the Yazoo pump issue.”
White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Brenda Mallory headed the federal contingent meeting in Vicksburg. The meeting also included national and regional officials from EPA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and National Weather Service.
Hyde-Smith has made the Yazoo Backwater Area Pumps project a priority since becoming a U.S. Senator in 2018, including securing funding for pre-construction planning and other activities on the Army Corps’ 2020 New Proposal and continuing to press for the project following the EPA reversal of its previous approval of the new plan.
The following is the text of Hyde-Smith’s prepared remarks for the Interagency Working Group meetings:
Chair Mallory, thank you for traveling to Mississippi to discuss solutions to the flooding that perpetually disrupts the lives of thousands of Mississippians.
As federal agencies and special interest groups continue to debate pumps vs. no pumps, it seems forgotten the United States Congress decided that a long time ago.
The authorized Yazoo Backwater Area Project calls for an intricate system of flood control features – levees, floodgates, drainage channels, and pumping stations – to protect a nearly 1,500-square-mile area.
That system cannot function without all of its parts. And clearly, it’s not.
Hundreds of thousands of acres flood nearly every year despite our spending hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to build levees, floodgates and drainage channels.
Yes, the area that is supposed to be protected, floods nearly every year.
Rain that falls just south of Memphis, Tennessee, ends up a few miles north of where we are sitting today.
When the Mississippi River is high, any above-normal rain event results in a tremendous amount of water being trapped inside the levee system.
This water has no outlet…no exit. It’s trapped.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – one of the world’s largest and most respected public engineering agencies – has studied the Yazoo Backwater Area Project for nearly four decades.
The Corps has not been able to identify any other practicable way to manage such enormous volumes of water, other than a pumping station.
We are not talking about draining a vast, pristine wetland area.
We are talking about removing floodwaters from peoples’ homes, their property, and keeping floodwaters off of our roads so people can go to work, church, and school.
Do residents of the South Delta deserve to be compensated for their prior losses? Absolutely.
But what we really need is a long-term solution, and there cannot be a long-term solution without a pumping station.
There are currently 59 pumping stations within the comprehensive Mississippi River and Tributaries (MR&T) project footprint, which this project falls within.
As I mentioned earlier, the Corps has considered every possible alternative.
How much good does it do to elevate homes, or build a ring levees around them, if they’re surrounded by water as far as the eye can see?
Remember, in 2019 the Yazoo Backwater Area remained flooded for roughly half the year. Many people had nowhere to go.
So often do we hear, “We need to listen to the science.”
Despite what we hear from pump opponents, this is what the science said with regard to the Corps’ 2020 Proposed Plan:
• All area residents would benefit from the pumps.
• The pumps would reduce flooding on up to 140,000 acres.
• The vast majority of structures and homes would be better protected from flooding.
• The negative effects of extended duration flooding on aquatic resources, wildlife and recreational resources would be dampened.
• Not a single acre of wetlands would be converted to non-wetlands.
Many smart people dedicated a lot of time and resources in reaching those conclusions. The bottom line is area residents will continue to suffer until a pumping station is constructed.