JACKSON, Miss., April 24, 2020 – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced on April 16 its intent to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the Yazoo Area Pump Project.
The Mississippi Wildlife Federation (MWF) – the largest network of conservationists in Mississippi – is encouraged and optimistic by news of the study of the impacts of the Yazoo Area Pump Project. MWF has had a long history of advocacy for protection and mitigation of wetlands in the state and has often expressed concerns about the loss of wetlands in the Delta through flood control projects.
“Our hope is that these new efforts will result in an effective solution to the south Delta’s flooding problems that is sustainable, cost effective and will minimize wetlands losses,” said Ashlee Ellis Smith, CEO of MWF. “As stated by the Corps, the Yazoo Area Pump Project has been extensively reformulated over the past six decades to balance flood-risk reduction with environmental concerns. We are eager to see the new data from the Corps. The ongoing and prolonged flooding during the past 10 years has caused loss of life, wildlife, and livelihood in the Delta, and we look forward to analyzing both the new environmental impact study data and specific details of this new project proposal.”
On Thursday, April 16, Corps’ Vicksburg District published its Notice of Intent to Prepare Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Yazoo Area Pump Project. It states in part:
Recent floods and new data on the environment in the Yazoo Backwater Area prompted this new project proposal. In 9 out of the last 10 years, the Yazoo Backwater Area has experienced significant flooding. In particular, the historic flood of 2019 caused two deaths, caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, flooded over 600 homes, and significantly adversely affected the aquatic and terrestrial environment. The recurring flooding has demonstrated the need to complete the Yazoo Area Pump Project feature. New, previously unavailable data indicates that the environmental impacts to wetlands and other resources from a pumping plant would be far less than calculated in the 2007 FSEIS. The Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement will tier from and update the 2007 FSEIS with new data. It will not reformulate the broad array of alternatives previously examined in the 2007 FSEIS, but will analyze a new project proposal to build the pump project (the Proposed Action) in light of the new data. The Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement will also examine environmental measures to mitigate the low dissolved oxygen content in the Yazoo Backwater Area, which is currently detrimental to aquatic species.
“MWF is hopeful that the SEIS will provide data that clearly demonstrates to the EPA that the project can be completed in an environmentally acceptable manner,” said Chris Winter, MWF president.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, MWF took an adverse position to completion of the Yazoo Area Pump Project, which was the only feature of the Yazoo Backwater Project that remained unconstructed of the entire Yazoo Basin, Yazoo Backwater, Mississippi Project. In August 2008, the project was vetoed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to these predicted adverse environmental effects. The EPA veto effectively took any control over the project out of the hands of Mississippians and placed it solely within the federal administration via the EPA since that time.
In July 2019, in response to this historic and catastrophic flooding, MWF issued a statement indicating that it planned to re-examine the pumps issue and study all updated data in light of new science and suggested that “the pumps may be part of the solution.”
“While all of the specific details of the SEIS have not yet been shared, if a structural solution can be designed to be beneficial to the many streams throughout the Delta that go dry during much of the year, supporting wildlife that rely on those waterways, and can maintain adequate minimum flow levels, while protecting the groundwater from contaminants, this could have a positive economic and environmental impact to the area,” Smith said.
Further, MWF supports mitigation and prioritized funding for mitigation of water resources projects within the Yazoo Basin to restore and conserve bottomland hardwood and wetland habitats for Mississippi’s fish, wildlife and outdoor recreationists; and encourages the Corps to include the 55,000 acres of reforestation mitigation in the new project proposal that is currently funded for inclusion in the original project.
MWF is optimistic about these new efforts by the Corps to improve life for residents of the Mississippi Delta, while working to conserve and enhance the environment for future generations.
About Mississippi Wildlife Federation
MWF was founded in 1946 and has become the leading wildlife conservation network in the state. Its mission is to conserve Mississippi’s natural resources and protect its wildlife legacy. The Federation – one of 52 state & territory affiliates of the National Wildlife Federation – is committed to natural resource conservation, environmental quality, hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation in Mississippi. As one of the oldest conservation organizations in the state, MWF has cultivated a rich heritage of signature initiatives that advance a culture of protecting this legacy. It takes important stances on issues impacting conservation and the environment, even when those issues are unpopular. It has stewarded Mississippi’s natural resources for 73 years, and will continue to do so for the next 73. For more information, and to discover how to be a part of this mission, visit www.mswildlife.org