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EPA, Army Corps of Engineers signal new...

EPA, Army Corps of Engineers signal new Mississippi Delta flood plan that includes finishing the pumps

By: Sarah Ulmer - May 5, 2023

Community hearings are taking place this week in the Delta and Vicksburg as federal officials consider next steps.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently presented a proposal to the public which recommended an approach to water management in the Yazoo Backwater Area.

The proposal was made during community engagement sessions on Thursday. The recommendations included the installation and opening of pumping stations. The stations will be designed to operate at a greater overall capacity than previous proposals considered.

The intent is to reduce the risk of flooding for homes in the area.

The proposed pumps will prevent flooding for almost all residents. For residents who remain at risk, they will be eligible for federal government support in the form of voluntary buy-outs or home elevation assistance.

Officials show support for agencies plan

Governor Tate Reeves praised the decision. Joining him are U.S. Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith as well as Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson.

Governor Tate Reeves took to social media to convey his thoughts regarding the plan.

“I don’t need to tell Mississippi what this means for the Delta and for Mississippi. Once it’s implemented, this plan will be a big victory for Mississippians,” said Reeves on Twitter. “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.”

Senator Wicker called the development a major step forward.

“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,” said Senator Wicker.

Wicker added that this plan will help prevent destroyed homes, businesses, crops and wildlife. He credited local residents who shared their stories of hardship and loss with federal officials.

“I encourage all Mississippians who have been affected, who are interested in this issue, to continue sharing their stories and feedback on this proposal,” said Wicker.

Senator Hyde-Smith thanked the agencies who persisted in finding a solution to the flooding issues in the Delta.

“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,” said Hyde-Smith. “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.”

Commissioner Gipson agreed.

“I am very pleased to hear that progress is being made to finish the pumps.  I look forward to hearing the details as to how the EPA and USACE will be working to accomplish this goal to safeguard the people of the South Delta,” said Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Gipson.

Community sessions continue

Additional community session will take place on Friday in the Delta and Vicksburg where members of the federal delegation will be present.

These community sessions are part of a five-month commitment made by the USACE and EPA which began in January. Representatives from the U.S. Department of the Interior will be present as well as other federal agencies. The officials will answer questions from the public about how available programs can help reduce flood risk.

The USACE will publish the full plan online, at which time, commentary from the public will open.

History of the backwater pumps

The history of the pumps is a controversial one. A Trump era decision had originally signed off on the construction of the pumps. However, the EPA stopped the project in November of 2021. Their reversal came after Congressman Bennie Thompson, who represents much of the Delta, sent a letter to the agency requesting they investigate the previous administration’s handling of the project.

RELATED: Congressman Bennie Thompson kills Yazoo Pumps project with help from Biden EPA

Prior to the Trump Administration’s EPA signing off on the project, Thompson had been a supporter of finishing the pumps. He had said it was of critical importance.

At the time of the reversal, Senator Hyde-Smith said that the action was an abuse of discretion. She quickly pointed fingers at Thompson as the one who encouraged the Biden Administration action.

Hyde-Smith had worked to secure $63.6 million in FY2021 funding to the state for the Delta project, with $9.2 million for pre-construction project planning.

Efforts to see the pumps finished continued and, in the spring of 2022, gained considerable traction. Hearings were held last summer to discuss flood needs with residents. This led to the commitment by the involved federal agencies to conduct community sessions in 2023.

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: