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Federal government begins plans to prevent flooding in Yazoo Backwater Area

Yazoo Backwater Area
Photo courtesy of the Mississippi Levee Board

After decades of anticipation from residents near the Yazoo Backwater Area, federal government agencies have started the process of releasing a plan to prevent flooding in the region.

The initial proposed plan would include a series of new pumping stations that would drain the water that pools on the floodplain during periods of heavy rainfall. In crop season, the pumps would activate when water nears 90 feet.

Out of season, they would turn on to keep water from exceeding 93 feet. Whatever the season, pumping stations will still operate at a greater capacity than under previous proposals. The limited number of residents whose property falls inside the projected flood zone will be able to receive government help raising their homes, building ring levees, or moving outside the risk area.

“This is a great announcement. It’s a major step forward for South Delta residents who have been waiting decades for the federal government to keep its promise, and also, to protect them from flooding. This water management plan would help prevent nearly all the flooding that has destroyed homes and businesses, ruined crops, and devastated wildlife,” Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said. “Also, this new plan would not have been possible without federal officials hearing firsthand from the many South Delta residents who have shared their unfiltered stories of hardship and loss, and frustration. I encourage all Mississippians who have been affected, who are interested in this issue, to continue sharing their stories and feedback on this proposal.”

Now that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Environmental Protection Agency have submitted the preferred approach to addressing flooding in the Yazoo Backwater Area, the agencies plan to deliver a final solution in late June.

Subsequently, the USACE will continue to work to develop a report on flood risk reduction solutions for the region that is in compliance with the Clean Water Act and all other applicable laws and regulations.

“We can give thanks that the Army Corps, EPA, and other agencies kept their promise to go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan they all agree on. I am excited to say we are stepping onto new ground. After a lot of time, hard work, stakeholder meetings, and many trips to the South Delta, the Corps, and cooperating federal agencies support a single path forward,” Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., said. “There is a long road ahead in terms of planning, design, funding, and construction of the pumping stations, but I am committed to doing everything I can to move this plan forward. Mississippians deserve this, and have for quite some time.”

In 1941, the federal government authorized the Yazoo Backwater Project to protect the Delta area of Mississippi from flooding. The project included a combination of levees, drainage structures, and pumps.

Though the levee and drainage structures were constructed in 1978, the pumps were never completed, resulting in years of backwater flooding that caused devastation in the region.

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