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Mississippi delegates blast EPA decision to stop Yazoo Pumps, Hyde-Smith says Congressman Bennie Thompson destroyed project

Flood
Photo by News Mississippi.

 

Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith is blasting an EPA decision to stop new efforts to construct a flood control project for the Yazoo Backwater Area of the Mississippi Delta.  She blames Congressmen Bennie Thompson for destroying the project, accusing him of taking one position in his district, but working against the project in Washington.

“This is an absolutely terrible day for the people who live in the Mississippi Delta and an even sadder day for the country when an agency like the EPA refuses to do the right thing for the people.  I also give credit where credit is due.  Congressman Bennie Thompson destroyed this project, taking one position in his district but working against it in Washington.

During an interview with SuperTalk Mississippi last week, we asked her about the letter Thompson wrote to EPA Administrator Michael Regan in August, asking the agency to dig into their decision to reverse a past veto of the project during the Trump Administration.

“If I intentionally wanted to kill something, I would probably do something like this.  But who in the world wants to do something like that?” she told us.  She went on to say that she hears so much from the Biden Administration about environmental justice.  “You talk about environmental injustice?  More than 71% of the area is minority, 30% living in property.  94% of the homes that would no longer be subject to this one year flood are minority occupied.  94%!  So if you’re talking about environmental justice…”

“This EPA action is an abuse of discretion and couldn’t be more arbitrary or capricious.  It also opens the door to a host of legal questions that should, and will likely, be challenged.

“I will continue to work for the people of the Delta to try to salvage this project, which should have been built decades ago.  I do know we absolutely do not need empty platitudes from the EPA on a ‘path forward’ and environmental justice.  We also do not need our own working against a project that will ultimately protect lives and the environment from repeated catastrophic flooding.”

Hyde-Smith has made the Yazoo Backwater Area Pumps project a priority since becoming a U.S. Senator in 2018.  The Senator was instrumental in securing funding for pre-construction planning and other activities on the New Proposal for the Yazoo Area Pump Project.

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Environment and Energy News published a story on Thompson’s letter to Regan in November:

Top Dem seeks probe of Trump EPA’s handling of Yazoo Pumps

Another piece on the project was published in August:

Trump EPA ignored scientists’ warnings on Miss. project: Docs

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U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today released the following statement in response to actions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse its guidance regarding the Yazoo Pumps Project:

“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.

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.

In fact, 94% of the homes that this project would save from the 100-year floodplain are minority-occupied. It amounts to an environmental injustice.

The government has made a promise to address the flooding problem in Mississippi. Today’s decision makes it harder to fulfill this promise and will delay a solution. However, I intend to continue fighting to achieve approval of this much-needed flood control project.


Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney released the following statement:

“I am disappointed in the Biden Administration’s lack of action to protect Mississippians and their property through the rejection of the Yazoo Pumps Project. I have long farmed and worked that Delta area and understand the impact this cancellation will have on our agricultural community and Delta residents. I will continue to support and fight for the installation of Yazoo pumps.”


The Mississippi Levee Board released the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency today issued a letter finding that the 2020 Proposed Plan for the Yazoo Pumps Project is prohibited by EPA’s 2008 Clean Water Act Section 404(c) Final Determination.

“For 80 years, our community has stood by as the Federal Government has played politics with the completion of the last pumping station on the Mississippi River, enduring devastating flooding in the South Mississippi Delta nearly every year as a consequence.

“The January 2021 Record of Decision, at long last allowing the completion of the life-and livelihood-saving Yazoo Backwater Pumps, was a godsend after decades of flooding and two back-to-back years of the most egregious flooding events that took the homes of nearly 700 of our neighbors. 94 percent of those homes were minority occupied and many of them remain uninhabitable today.

“Despite the Biden Administration and the EPA Administrator’s repeated insistence that environment justice is a priority, including during a meeting this past Sunday where Administrator Regan had the opportunity to hear directly from those still suffering from the 2019 flood, today, they chose to ignore the concerns of our community and determined that no pumps can be built in the Yazoo Backwater Area.

“There is no project that better meets the goals of environmental justice as prioritized by the Biden Administration and Administrator Regan, and without pumps, there is no relief from annual devastating flooding. The lives and livelihoods of our neighbors, 62 percent of whom are people of color and 28 percent living below the poverty line, are our priority. The Levee Board will consider all options, including potential legal action, to advance this essential project.”


Governor Tate Reeves today released a statement regarding the Biden Administration’s rejection of the Yazoo Pumps Project. The project, previously approved by the Trump Administration, would have reduced devastating flooding in the Yazoo Backwater Area and ensured the safety of area residents.“It seems like every day, the Biden Administration finds a new way to fail Mississippians,” said Governor Tate Reeves. “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. 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.”


 Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson gave the following statement regarding EPA’s withdrawal of support for the Yazoo Pumps.

“The EPA’s decision to retract its previous approval and instead oppose the Yazoo Pumps once again is a huge atrocity. Mississippians in the South Delta, farmers, state and local leaders, the EPA and the US Corps of Engineers were united in a plan, and in agreement on a solution reached earlier this year to finish the pumps. Now, the Biden Administration’s EPA has dashed those hopes.

These are not natural flooding issues; they were created by the federal government’s water control plan, and they continue because the federal government has failed to construct these pumps it first approved more than 80 years ago. The EPA may not be able to see it from Washington, DC, but when the South Delta floods, Mississippians see it in their fields and businesses, they feel the water in the living rooms. These floodwaters destroy Mississippi farmland and homes, roads and businesses, and this government-created disaster destroys our wildlife and environment. Rich, and poor alike, suffer from this government-made problem and will continue to suffer as a result of this environmental injustice perpetuated by the Biden Administration EPA.

The Yazoo Pumps would mitigate the flooding, protect our farmland and the environment, and safeguard homes and schools throughout Delta communities, and I promise you I will continue to fight for and stand with Mississippians who demand the federal government finish the pumps.”

 

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