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EPA should have historical background of Delta

If you first listen to environmentalists and the Environmental Protection Agency as to why they are opposed to the Yazoo Backwater project, they make a pretty compelling argument.

The EPA has said the project would have incurred “unacceptable damage to these valuable resources that are used for wildlife, economic and recreational purposes.”

In an interview I did with a representative of the EPA several months ago, I asked him what environmental template they were using in being able to make a claim of “unacceptable damage.”

To that point, I had accepted the EPA’s voice as “word” in this case and was trying to fully understand the situation.

Surprisingly, the answer was the EPA wants the area of the South Delta to be pristine, the way it was before man began interfering with the wetlands for flood control. And with that reason the EPA has issued a veto under the Clean Water Act.

Last week, Mississippi Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker advised the Bush administration that the Yazoo Backwater Project should be exempt from the EPA veto. The senators say the project should be qualified for an exemption from the veto and asked “for a full explanation of why that information was ignored” by the EPA.

Even with all the legal wrangling in Washington, it should be understood, the EPA really doesn’t have a clue about the Yazoo Backwater Project. All of the statistics and fancy words being used are smoke and mirrors. Because, when the EPA says that it wants the area to be pristine, it proves the argument has nothing to do with the environment.

For sure, the Yazoo Backwater Project is controversial.

Certainly, the high price of the project compared to the number of people that it will help in the short or long term is concerning. And it is true much of what has been done over the years in the name of flood control across the Delta and North Mississippi has contributed to the continued flooding of the South Delta.

That being said, any reasonable person cannot be in favor of what the EPA has done in the name of environmental protection.

The recommended determination came after the EPA received more than 47,600 public comments.

About 99.91 percent of them urged the EPA to prohibit the project, EPA southeast region spokesperson Dawn Harris said.

Other than the price tag, there is no viable reason to stop the pump project.

It is important to point out that the Yazoo Backwater Project would have many advantages, including a 19 percent increase in wetlands resources, a 34 percent increase in aquatic resources and that water quality in the region would increase with reforestation, which would be accomplished with the pump.

But at what cost?

$220 million.

That’s a lot, for sure.

It is argued that the $220 million for the Yazoo Backwater Project could be put to better use.


If at any time there was a guarantee the $220 million from Uncle Sam was a blank check to be used in the “best interest” of the Mississippi Delta, surely the pumps would be down the list.

However, that is not the reality.

The money, in this case, is or would be specifically for the Yazoo Backwater Project. Maybe the EPA is working a backdoor plan that no one knows about right now that would change the way the $220 million is used; maybe they want to buy the land away from the owners. Maybe. Maybe not.

The EPA’s view that voting against the pumps will leave the Delta in a natural state is warped.

The Delta hasn’t been in a natural state for more than 200 years since we started farming it and particularly since we started to control flooding in the first place.

What we have now is a result of the flood control put in place by our forefathers.

No environmental lobby is going to change that by stopping the Yazoo Backwater Project.

Contact MBJ managing editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com.

About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

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