Army Corps’ action moves Yazoo Pump Project forward

Today represents an important step in the process towards the completion of the Yazoo Pump Project in the Mississippi Delta. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced its intention to update its ‘supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS)’ to outline the need for a pumping station in the Backwater area, which has flooded nine of the last ten years. The Corps’ initial SEIS, according to Senator Roger Wicker, played a key role in the EPA’s decision to initially veto the project back in 2008. 

“This is a positive step forward for the residents of the South Mississippi Delta who have long been pleading for relief. The Army Corps of Engineers’ new report represents the latest data on the impact of backwater floods that have devastated wildlife, destroyed crops, and damaged homes throughout the Yazoo Backwater Area. While this project is still far from the finish line, I am encouraged that the Corps has listened to the people of Mississippi and seen the impact of the floods on our state and our environment,” Wicker said.

Announcing the update, the Corps specifically details the historic flood event of 2019 which accounted for two deaths, left hundreds of thousands of acres underwater, destroyed over 600 homes and dramatically affected the region’s agriculture industry and wildlife populations. 

Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith commended the Corps for taking this action and reiterated her stance that much of the recent economic devastation could have been prevented if the pumps were already in place. 

“More than $984.5 million in agricultural crop damages have been observed from various flood events since 2008, which does not even take into account the hundreds of thousands of acres that went unplanted because floodwaters rose in early spring and remained high through the planting season.  In 2019 and 2020, for instance, more than 200,000 acres were prevented from planting, which means hundreds of millions of dollars in economic output the area could have generated,” Hyde-Smith said.

In the updated SEIS, the Corps explains that “the proposed plan is the most balanced, implementable approach, and meets the economic and environmental needs of the basin.”

According to the Senators, the Corps’ draft plan does recommend a new location for the Yazoo Backwater pumping station, which would be operated by natural gas rather than diesel.  It would also entail thousands of acres of conservation easements for reforestation, and the installation of 34 supplemental low flow groundwater wells to enhance aquatic resources.

The EPA’s review of the project began back in April 2019 as the Backwater Area is the only major backwater area in the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project that does not have a pumping plant.

The Corps will accept written comments on the Draft Addendum through November 30th. Comments on the Draft Addendum should be sent by e-mail to YazooBackwater@usace.army.mil.