WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) is asking for an independent peer review of the decision that halted completion of the Yazoo Backwater Project, a flood control project for the lower Mississippi Delta.
Cochran requested approval for an independent peer review from Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), following a lack of response from EPA Region IV to a recent and similar recommendation from the Army Corps of Engineers. Completion of the backwater pump project, authorized by Congress in 1941, was idled since the project was administratively vetoed by the EPA in 2008 based on recommendations by Region IV.
“I am writing to request that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water conduct an independent peer review of EPA Region IV’s recommended determination in 2008 to veto the final components of the Yazoo Backwater Area Project,” Cochran said.
“It is deeply concerning that the Southeastern Regional Office is unwilling to allow independent experts who were not associated with the determination to provide a fair and objective reevaluation of the 2008 determination. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — one of the world’s largest and most advanced construction agencies specializing in the design and construction of flood protection systems — continues to affirm the vetoed proposal is the option most capable of protecting Mississippians from devastating flood damages while creating opportunities for environmental protection and enhancement,” he said.
Cochran said the scope of the project and ongoing flood risk in the Yazoo River Basin further justifies an additional, independent review process. Finishing the project, which has been constructed over the past seven decades, would provide additional flood protection on more than 630,000 acres in the backwater area of the basin. The senator raised the Yazoo Backwater Project’s potential at a July 2011 Senate hearing that addressed the disaster conditions created in Mississippi during the floods of 2011.
“Those at risk deserve clarity from the EPA regarding its concerns about the project’s potential impact on certain waters of the United States. Also, the public deserves certainty that EPA was correct in its estimates,” Cochran said. “Despite the various challenges and differences of opinions regarding this issue, citizens of the lower Mississippi Delta still need the flood protection the federal government has promised since 1941. It is imperative that your Agency look further into Region IV’s veto determination, and begin proposing viable alternatives of its own until the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers can agree on an effective solution.”
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