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Conservation groups file another lawsuit in effort to block the pumps

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(photo by Thomas Parker)

A coalition of Environmental Conservation groups have filed another lawsuit in their efforts to block the Yazoo Pump Project. This time the United States Army Corps of Engineers along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been named as defendants in a suit filed by a consortium that includes American Rivers, the National Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and Healthy Gulf.

The legal action was filed on Wednesday in federal court in Washington D.C. This comes on the heels of the consortium filing a similar action in January against the Environmental Protection Agency. The newest lawsuit claims the Corps “severely underestimated the pumps’ devastating impacts and failed to inform the public about the true costs of the project.”                                             

The current proposal for the pumps calls for construction north of Vicksburg near Deer Creek at a projected cost of around 400 million dollars. Only a portion of the needed funding has been approved.  However Mississippi’s Congressional delegation has unilaterally voiced their support for the project. 

The pumps would drain flooded areas which include low lying agricultural lands of the South Delta region by using pumps capable of pumping 14,000 cubic feet per second when needed.  The lawsuit goes on to assert that the current project does not differ from a 2008 proposal which was vetoed by the EPA. However the EPA has given their approval to the current version of the project as has the Corps of Engineers.  

In a statement on Wednesday, Peter Nimrod, chief engineer of the Mississippi Levee Board, a group in support of the project, said the lawsuit is a “disingenuous and dangerous attempt to prevent responsible management of flooding in the Delta that protects human and animal life.” Nimrod said the historic flooding of the last three years has already wiped out generations of wildlife, killed two people and destroyed many homes in the impoverished region. He said national groups don’t know what is best for people in Mississippi.

“The federal decision to move forward is consistent with applicable laws and sound science showing that reducing flood duration and height is not only good for our homes, roads, and people, but also provides multiple environmental benefits,” Nimrod said. “As proposed, the Yazoo Backwater Pumps will save lives while increasing wetland, terrestrial, aquatic, and waterfowl resources and reforestation.”

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