Delta Business Journal
Pump Plans Moving Forward
By Jack Criss
A proposed water management solution was presented in Vicksburg on May 4 to mitigate flooding in the South Delta. The Yazoo Pumps, long promoted by advocates and residents, now look to be finally completed in the near future, according to statements made by government officials at the announcement.
“The Mississippi Levee Board is thrilled with the proposed water management solution for backwater flooding in the Mississippi South Delta that was introduced,” says Mississippi Levee Board Chief Engineer, Peter Nimrod. “This collaborative effort among all Federal Agencies including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, came up with a recommended preferred approach that includes a 25,000 cfs Pump. These Federal Agencies have been working since early January to develop this new plan and they came to Mississippi February 15 and 16 to meet with local people, community leaders, elected officials, farmers and environmental groups. The local citizens explained the devastation that backwater flooding does to the people, homes, roads, trees, wildlife and the environment. After all these meetings the Federal agencies developed this new plan and they came back to Mississippi to unveil it on May 4 and 5.”
The preliminary proposed plan would maintain a 90′ elevation during the crop season defined as March 25-October 31. During the non-crop season (November 1-March 24) it would allow the backwater to touch 93′.
“This is a monumental day for the pumps! The Levee Board is extremely grateful for Sen. Roger Wicker, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Congressman Bennie Thompson for their steadfast support of this project,” says Mississippi Levee Board President Kenny Rodgers.
“The Mississippi Levee Board commends the Biden Administration for coming to Mississippi and listening to the people who are impacted by backwater flooding and pushing these Federal Agencies to work together to develop a workable solution,” says Mississippi Levee Board Vice-President Nott Wheeler.
Nimrod notes that, “The community was thrilled with the new plan but they have asked the Federal Agencies to go back and look to see if they could lower the pump-on elevations and start the crop-season in earlier March.”
“The original plan for the Yazoo Backwater Project called for a 25,000 cfs pump that turned on at 80′. We acknowledge that we have to compromise to get this project built–but our people have given up 10′ to 13′ of protection for the environment,” says Wheeler.
“In 1941, the federal government pledged to build flood control measures along the whole Mississippi River, but decades of incorrect information and bureaucratic stalling kept a solution out of reach for the South Delta,” says Senator Roger Wicker. “In the eighty years since, the people of the Yazoo Backwater Area have experienced setback after setback waiting for the government to keep its promise. With the announcement of a new flood water management proposal, that hope may finally be fulfilled. Government officials unveiled the plan this week at a meeting with community members, and they are asking for the public’s feedback. I welcome the proposal and am eager to see it completed.”
“We have been working tirelessly for years to ensure that the federal government ‘finishes the pumps,’ and today I want to celebrate a serious victory,” Governor Tate Reeves said in a statement released to the press. “A delegation from the EPA, Interior, and Army said today that they will be releasing a plan to mitigate the flooding in the Mississippi Delta which, as of now, includes the pump that we have been fighting for.”
“I don’t need to tell Mississippi what this means for the Delta and for Mississippi,” says Reeves. “Once it’s implemented, this plan will be a big victory for Mississippians. But I want to make one thing crystal clear: this accomplishment, the fact that the federal government has agreed to re-examine the flooding and what can be done to stop it, is because of the folks in the Mississippi Delta. Over the years those in the Mississippi Delta have consistently raised their voice and shared their concerns. They spoke up, and today we are seeing what happens when you do.
“To everyone in the Delta, I’m so proud of you, our state is proud of you. Thank you for being the catalyst for making today possible,” added Reeves in the statement.
Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson gave the following statement regarding the announced plan to mitigate flooding in the South Delta: “I am encouraged by the proposed water management solution presented today to mitigate flooding in the South Delta. The plan announced today is a positive step in the right direction. The construction of the much needed Yazoo Pumps will benefit our farmers and all citizens in the Yazoo Backwater Area of Mississippi, who have been impacted by flooding over the years devastating local economies and natural resources.
“I want to thank the U.S. Department of Army, Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Department of the Interior for their swift action in developing this plan. I would also like to thank Senator Hyde-Smith and Senator Wicker for their leadership in keeping this issue on the forefront,” says Gibson. “I look forward to reviewing the final plan on June 30. The people of the South Delta have been and continue to be the leading voices for resolving these problems, and I encourage them to continue to make their voices heard as the project moves forward.
The Federal agencies will finalize the new plan by June 30. At that point the Corps will move forward with the environmental documentation.