The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reversed a Trump-area decision Wednesday on the Yazoo Backwater Pumps project, putting the project back in limbo.
The Yazoo Backwater Pumps project would have utilized one of the largest pumping stations ever built — with a capacity of 14,000 cubic feet of water per second — that would pumped floodwater from than 630,000 acres of marginal farmland between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers during floods on the Mississippi River.
This area, known as the Yazoo backwater, floods every other year and the pumping station on Steele Bayou would've sent the floodwater to the Mississippi. The pumps project was designed to lower the flood stage by 4 feet to 4.5 feet of a 100-year flood.
The EPA said in the letter that it will work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other stakeholders in the area to reduce flooding in an environmentally responsible way.
The project was first proposed in 1941 and was previously killed by the EPA in 2008 before being resurrected by the Trump Administration in 2020. Several environmental groups filed a lawsuit on January 12 against the pumps, saying they would cause destruction of wetlands.
According to the 2007 Environmental Impact Statement, 67,000 acres of wetlands would’ve been adversely impacted while 43.6 acres of wetlands would’ve been impacted through the discharge of dredged or fill material.
Under the 2020 plan, the pump site would’ve been moved from Steele Bayou to Deer Creek, which the EIS says would’ve had four times the adverse direct impacts and about a similar indirect impact to the Steele Bayou site.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves released a statement saying that seemingly every day, the Biden Administration finds a new way to fail Mississippians.
“The Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency realized the importance of protecting the Mississippi Delta and its residents when they allowed this project to proceed,” Reeves said. “Instead, President Biden is choosing to put radical environmentalists ahead of human lives and livelihoods. My administration will fight this decision and stop at nothing until this project gets done.”
U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, also decried the decision in a statement, saying that 94 percent of the homes that would be saved by the project are minority-owned and that it amounted to “an environmental injustice.”
“I am deeply frustrated the EPA has chosen to reverse its guidance on the Yazoo Backwater Pumps and leave the people of the South Mississippi Delta in harm’s way," Wicker said. “The federal government authorized the pumps 80 years ago, but the project has been held up by bureaucrats and red tape ever since.
“Today’s action means that roads will continue to be impassable, deer and other wildlife and plant life will die, hypoxia will kill fish, small businesses will shut down and residents will continue to be forced to leave their houses.