It has been a while since I put my thoughts down on paper, but I am back. Many of you thought that once the 2019 floodwaters receded you had heard the last of us. You would be wrong. Those of us that survived the historic 2019 Yazoo Backwater flood have been assessing our damages, watching the weather and gathering our strength. The battle to right the injustice of our government’s failure to complete the Yazoo Backwater pumps rages on, and we embrace it and are proud to carry the torch!
The thing that has spurred me into action is the significance of today. Today the backwater level is at 92.6’. For many of you that number might not be significant, so let me see if I can put it into perspective for you.
Last year the backwater level did not reach 92.6’ until February 25th, so on surface value it would seem that we are in worse shape than we were last year. This year, however, the Mississippi River is expected to crest at Vicksburg tomorrow and we should be able to open the Steele Bayou Drainage Structure around February 1st and start slowly draining the backwater. That certainly will not be an end to our flood woes for the year as we still have spring rains and snow melt to endure. Without pumps, everything hinges on the Mississippi River level getting and staying lower that the Yazoo backwater level so that we can continue draining the backwater from the bathtub the government built around us. The meteorologists cannot accurately predict far enough ahead to know if this year will be a repeat of last year – only God knows that. The Yazoo Backwater Project was not designed to depend on a wing and a prayer to prevent flooding; it was designed to have pumps to drain the bathtub when the Mississippi River floods – just like the twenty-two other federally funded pumps operating within 200 miles of us. But that bit of history does not define the significance of today – read on.
The level the backwater is at today, according to the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), is a tenth of an inch higher than it would have crested last year if the pumps had been in operation. The reason this is significant is that after over ten years of claiming that the Yazoo pumps were going to drain and destroy the wetlands within the Yazoo basin, last year the environmental zealots completely contradicted their original premise for opposing the pumps and now claim that based on the USACE findings the pumps would not even work to prevent flooding. (See my Fact vs. Fiction page for references.)
These same so-called environmentalists like to claim that the residents of this area know it is in a flood plain and just need to move. That is where they over simplify the situation and underestimate us. We don’t need anyone to point out to us that we live in a floodplain. Not only are we aware of it, but for the most part we are equipped for it. Our homes are not built below sea level like most of New Orleans. Our homes are built to withstand the typical flooding that occurs every couple of years.
That gets me back to today and that 92.6’ flood elevation. Today, just as it would have been last year if the pumps were in operation, there are no homes flooded and no major highways closed, perfectly demonstrating the ability of the Yazoo pumps to prevent major flooding.
Today there are, however, approximately 354,000 acres are unnecessarily flooded in the Yazoo basin, including 109,000 acres of farm land. We are still at least a month away from planting season and our farmers are cautiously optimistic that they will get most of it drained and planted in time to not repeat last year’s disaster. You see, we get it. For the farmers of this area, this is the life they choose or were born into.
What we don’t get and will not accept is that we are the only backwater basin on the Lower Mississippi River with an incomplete project and no pumps in operation to prevent the most catastrophic of floods from inundating us for up to seven months at a time. So do not think that you will only hear from us when the water enters our homes or an entire season of crops is lost. The battle rages on and we are not going anywhere until the Yazoo pumps are operational.
This opinion piece is by Ann Dahl and is published on her website finishthepumps.com