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Corps recommends finishing the Yazoo Pumps in its newest report

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Eagle Lake Shore Road before and after the 2019 flooding. Finishing the Yazoo Pumps would prevent flooding in the overwhelming majority of homes in the Yazoo Backwater.

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:

District Engineer
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Vicksburg District
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.

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Mission collecting toys for children with an incarcerated parent

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(Image by candice_rose from Pixabay)

The annual Jamming for the Kids concert may have been canceled this year due to COVID-19 concerns, but the need and the effort to collect cash and toys hasn’t stopped.

Organizers are still collecting cash and unwrapped new toys for the children of people who are incarcerated and for children in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services.

Boxes for toy collection have been placed at Toney’s Grill and Seafood Market at 710 U.S. Highway 61 North, at the Warren County Sheriff’s Office at 1000 Grove St. outside the main entrance, and at River City Rescue Mission at 3705 Washington St.

To make a cash donation, drop it off at the mission for Director Ernie Hall, or go online at RiverCityRescueMission.org.

Organizers are hopeful that the community will support this effort that has provided Christmas presents to area children for the past 22 years.

For more information call Ernie Hall at 601-636-6602.

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Final day for comments on Corps’ Yazoo Backwater Pumps statement

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U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith spoke with flood victims at Valley Park, Miss., in 2019. (Photo by David Day)

Monday, Nov. 30 is the final day to submit comments on the the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Impact Statement in support of finishing the Yazoo Backwater Pumps. State officials are urging Mississippians to weigh in.

“We’ve seen the devastation that the backwater flooding has caused to Mississippi agriculture, farmers, ranchers and wildlife for years now, unnecessarily. The solution is simple, we need to finish the Yazoo Pump Project, which would prevent flood damage to urban and agricultural areas throughout the state for years to come,” said Andy Gipson, commissioner of agriculture and commerce, in a statement.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently accepting comments from citizens through Monday, Nov. 30, on the Yazoo Area Pump Project, and I encourage all Mississippians to take a moment and submit a comment of support. We need to stand up for our friends in the Mississippi South Delta and help them in their time of need. It’s time to finish the pumps.”

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann tweeted a brief video Monday in support of the finishing the pumps.

Comments must be submitted by Monday, Nov. 30. Submit comments using one of the following methods:

  • Text PUMPS to 50457.
  • Send a voicemail or text message to 601-392-2237.
  • Go to https://www.forgottenbackwaterflood.com/ or https://finishthepumps.com/ to fill out an online form to send to the Corps.
  • Fill out a postcard available at sites around the state including Valley Park Elevator in Valley Park, Lo-Sto and Yore Convenience Store in Eagle Lake, Mississippi Ag Company and Chuck’s Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork, Mississippi Levee Board and Sherman’s Restaurant in Greenville, Toney’s Grill in Vicksburg and the Mississippi Delta Council in Stoneville.
  • Send an email to [email protected]
  • Write to the Corps at the following address:
    District Engineer
    S. Army Corps of Engineers
    Vicksburg District
    4155 Clay Street
    Vicksburg, MS 39183-3435
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The old state flag with the Confederate battle emblem isn’t dead just yet

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The old flag of the State of Mississippi once flew along High Street between the Mississippi State Capitol, Supreme Court and Walter Sillers State Office Building in Jackson, Mississippi. (Photo by Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68498465)

Despite a massive vote on Nov. 3 in favor of a new Mississippi state flag that proclaims “In God We Trust,” additional official actions are needed to ensure the death knell for the 126-year-old state flag that features the Confederate battle emblem as part of its design.

During the 2021 legislative session that begins in January, lawmakers must ratify the new state flag approved by voters on Nov. 3. The bill passed this summer — which retired the old flag and formed a commission to recommend a new design (the “In God We Trust” flag) to be approved or rejected by voters on Nov. 3 — included a little-noticed provision that requires legislators to ratify the action of the voters.

That means lawmakers must take at least one more vote on the flag in the rapidly approaching legislative session.

In 2001, during an earlier failed attempt to change the state flag, legislators voted to hold a referendum where the choice would be between the old flag and a new design recommended by a commission. The bill passed by the Legislature that year stated that whatever flag voters approved would be the official flag of the state without any additional action by the Legislature. In 2001, voters overwhelmingly voted to retain the old flag.

But the bill approved this year states that once voters approved the new design, “the Legislature shall enact into law the new design as the official Mississippi state flag.” Of course, the courts have ruled that the word “shall” does not force legislators to do anything they do not want to do.

The vote to change the flag this past summer was a difficult one for many legislators to take, and several lawmakers have taken heat for it in their home districts. That begs the question of why language was put into the bill essentially forcing legislators to take yet another vote on the contentious issue. It seems the easier option would have been to mandate that the vote of the people for a new flag would ratify that banner as official.

As the bill was being crafted in June, concerns were raised about an 1860 Supreme Court case, Alcorn v. Hamer. Some said the ruling in that case could be interpreted to say it was unconstitutional for the Legislature to leave it to a vote of the people to enact general law.

Despite the controversy surrounding replacing the old flag, there is good reason to believe the ratification of the new flag by the Legislature during the 2021 session will be nothing more than a formality and will perhaps happen early in the session.

After all, more Mississippians voted for the new state flag on Nov. 3 than voted for President Donald Trump or U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. Heck, more people voted for the new flag than voted for medical marijuana, which also got more votes than Trump and Hyde-Smith.

The only ballot item receiving more votes than the new flag this year was the proposal to change the Constitution to remove the language requiring candidates for statewide office to garner both a majority of the popular votes and to win the most votes in a majority of House districts in order to win the election.

That proposal received 957,420 votes, or 79.2%, in still unofficial returns, while the flag garnered 939,585 vote, or 73.3%. Trump received 756,731 votes, or 57.5%.

Both the electoral provision that was repealed by voters and the old state flag were remnants of the 1890s, when Mississippi’s white power structure took extraordinary steps to deny basic rights to African Americans. The electoral provision was enacted as a method of preventing Black Mississippians, then a majority in the state, from being elected to statewide office.

Placing the Confederate battle emblem on the state’s official flag during the same time period, no doubt, was a way for white lawmakers to pay homage to the Civil War in which Southerners fought to preserve slavery.

Even if the Legislature, as expected, does ratify the new flag in 2021, the controversy may not be quite over. The Let Mississippi Vote political committee plans to try to garner the roughly 100,000 signatures of registered voters needed to place a proposal back on the ballot to allow people to choose between four flags — one being that 126-year-old banner.

Most likely later this month or early next month, the clock will start ticking on the one-year time frame supporters of that ballot initiative will have to gather the signatures to place the flag proposal on the ballot.

Whether Mississippians, who voted overwhelmingly for a new flag on Nov. 3, will want to vote again on the contentious issue remains to be seen.


This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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