A version of this article first appeared on the Finish the Pumps blog authored by Ann Dahl. It is reprinted here with permission.
The long awaited Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to the Yazoo Area Pump Project was released Friday, and as expected, it recommends completion of the project and the pumps.
The advantage of this study over the original EIS is that it is based on hard facts and scientific evaluation gathered over the past 13 years of the actual damage that continued backwater flooding is doing to the environment and the wildlife in the study area. It also includes 13 years’ worth of wetland studies that support the more stable and beneficial environment the pumps will provide. It does not rely on conjecture, outlandish assumptions and scare tactics that the pump opponents continue to tout.
For those of you that want to read all 92 pages of the SEIS, you can find it here: Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. The entire report, including supporting appendixes, can be found on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website.
For those of you that have trouble digesting government documents, engineering data and studies, here are the highlights in laymen’s terms:
Environmental enhancements and improvements
One of the biggest changes to the project is moving the pump location from the Steele Bayou site, 6 miles northeast to the Deer Creek site. This move will allow the backwater to be pumped from the larger Sunflower Basin, which is 82% of the total Yazoo Basin, before it inundates the smaller Steel Bayou Basin, thereby slightly reducing flood levels.
The second big change is the inclusion of 34 Supplemental Low Flow Groundwater Wells. These wells will be located on the west side of the main Mississippi River Levee from Clarksdale to Greenville. They will pump water into Delta streams during low-water season in the fall to provide critical habitat for fisheries, aquatics and freshwater mussels. This water will also help recharge the ground water aquifer.
Other environmental enhancements to the project include a net gain in all environmental resource categories (wetlands, terrestrial, aquatic and waterfowl). The proposed pumps will be fueled by natural gas instead of diesel, greatly reducing their carbon footprint. And finally, removing significant acreage from future flooding will provide critical habitat for wildlife.
Structural component (pumps) enhancements and improvements
As with the original pump design, the pumps would have a capacity of 14,000 cfs and would only be operated when the backwater levels exceed 87 feet. Having the pumps in operation will reduce the Base Flood Elevation from 100.3 feet to 95.2 feet. This will remove most homes in the area from the BFE and significantly reduce flood insurance premiums, and no highways would be flooded. This 5 foot reduction of the BFE will also prevent potential flooding on more than 100,000 acres of farm land.
Mitigation and reforestation enhancements and improvements
The new project includes the offer of a reforestation easement on 2,700 acres of farmland below 87’, as well as the compensatory mitigation acquisition of an additional 2,405 acres of low-lying farmland for conversion to forestation. The new plan also includes a Monitoring and Adaptive Management Plan to ensure the project meets environmental, social and economic goals.
The continued flooding over the last 10 years — and especially the unprecedented flood of 2019 — clearly have demonstrated the dire need to finally complete this project. There is no price that can be put on the loss of wildlife and their habitat or the damage already done to the environment, but 2019’s agricultural losses alone are expected to exceed $800 million. For those of you who don’t think that flooding in rural Mississippi affects you, consider that it is your tax dollars at work unnecessarily.
The release of the SEIS opens a new 45-day comment session. Submit your comments by using the direct submission form on Finish the Pumps homepage. As with the previous comment sessions, personal comments reflecting your experiences are the most meaningful.
You can also email comments to [email protected] or maicl them to the following address:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
4155 Clay Street
Vicksburg, MS 39138-3435
Comments from within Mississippi as well outside of the state are needed, so please share this message and encourage your family and friends to submit comments. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 20, 2020.