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MS Levee Board responds to USACE’s Record of Decision on backwater pumps

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

The Mississippi Levee Board released the following statement Friday in response to the Record of Decision announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

The Mississippi Levee Board commends the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for signing its Record of Decision finding that the Yazoo Backwater Pumps can proceed. We are grateful for the work performed by the Corps to demonstrate again that the pumps are needed and will not damage the environment. We appreciate the cooperation of the Corps with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies to develop a modified Yazoo Backwater Project that does not fall within the out-of-date EPA 2008 veto.

Our community knows better than outsiders how backwater floods can devastate lives, homes and our natural resources. The Corps’ Dec. 11, 2020, Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement provides thorough scientific proof that the pumps – which will lessen the height and duration of flooding – will have only modest impacts on the fish and wildlife resources that we treasure. The proposed mitigation plan offsets those impacts and provides broader benefits by including wells to supplement upstream tributaries during dry periods. Disastrous floods in the Backwater, with stagnant high levels remaining on the land into the summer, are far worse for fish and wildlife than controlling the high water in a reasonable manner.

The Levee Board remains deeply disappointed that some out of state project opponents continue to ignore the scientific data demonstrating that removal of high flood water will not damage wetlands, wildlife or fisheries. On Jan. 12, 2021, certain national groups filed a lawsuit challenging the statement in EPA’s Nov. 30, 2020, letter to the Corps that this project is not subject to the 2008 veto and can proceed. We will vigorously oppose this lawsuit or any other claims that may be brought against the project. We can only hope that after fully reviewing the science and the facts, other organizations will agree that this project should go forward.

Signing of the Record of Decision by USACE Mississippi Valley Division Commander Maj. General Diana Holland brings us one step closer to flood damage relief for the Mississippi South Delta. We will continue to work with federal and state agencies to bring this Project to fruition.

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Vicksburg Daily News