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Posts Tagged ‘Mississippi River’

EPA admits it has no experts on Yazoo Pump Project

March 7th, 2012 Comments off

Just got off the phone with the EPA in Atlanta, and, according to a media representative, there is no one there who is an expert on the Yazoo Backwater Project.

Having said that, a federal appeals court panel sided yesterday with the Environmental Protection Agency over its 2008 veto of a $220 million flood control project near the Yazoo River in the south Mississippi Delta.

Does it make sense that there is no one in the entirety of the EPA who falls into the category of an “expert” who can answer questions about the project, yet it vetoed the project and has been willing to defend that decision in the courts?

Cochran position not based in fact

May 10th, 2011 Comments off

South Delta flooding can be controlled and the environment can be the better for it if the Yazoo Backwater Project is funded and undertaken by the federal government.

However, when Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) drew comparisons between the current Mississippi River flooding and the flooding that would be controlled by a pump system in the south Delta, he was comparing apples and oranges.

A pump system, as I learned not that long ago, would do the south Delta no good right now, and we hope Sen. Cochran isn’t playing political games and misleading the public for the sake of getting this project approved.

If we must resort to misleading statements to take care of business, the business isn’t worth it.

When I spoke with someone at the Environmental Protection Agency in January about about why it is against the project, a representative told me the pure and organic state of the Delta would be ruined by inserting pumps into the ecosystem.

That was false and misleading too.

The only way to take the Delta back to a pure and organic state would be to blow up all of the levees and allow the Mississippi River flow across the land as it did hundreds of years ago, when most of what we see now were cypress swamps.

Cochran could be saying that by judging how the corp of engineers makes decisions on the current flooding could be compared to decision making in conjunction with the pump project. It’s still a reach but that argument could be made.

All should make this decision based on the merit of project, not misleading statements.

EPA, Sierra push tall tales about Yazoo pump project past courts

April 1st, 2011 Comments off

Several years ago, I was one of those who thought the Yazoo Backwater Project was another instance of government spending gone crazy for the benefit of a few rich folks, particularly Delta farmers.
And, if you listen to environmentalists and the Environmental Protection Agency as to why they oppose the Yazoo pump project, you’ll think they make a compelling argument.
But I was wrong.
And so were the EPA, the Sierra Club, the Gulf Restoration Network, American Rivers, the National Wildlife Federation and every other group or organization that opposed the pumps, at least for the reasons they give.
The EPA vetoed the project in 2008, basing its decision on the Clean Water Act.
In August 2009, The Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners sued filed a federal lawsuit challenging the EPA’s decision. The Commission wants to move forward with the $220 million flood-control project.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock dismissed the suit.
So the argument appears to be over.
But my conscience demands that I not allow the EPA’s preposterous reasoning to be the final word.

The EPA’s case
All along, the EPA has said the project would have caused “unacceptable damage to the valuable resources that are used for wildlife, economic and recreational purposes.”
In an interview with a representative of the EPA in January, I asked him what environmental template was used to come up with the assertion of “unacceptable damage.”
The EPA, he said, wants the area of the South Delta to be pristine, the way it was before man began interfering with the wetlands for flood control.

The back story
The Yazoo Backwater Project is a decades-old proposal to build a pump station to drain wetlands, farmland and forests north of Vicksburg when the Mississippi River is high.
Congress authorized the project in 1941 but didn’t come up with enough money for it.
The proposed pump would lower a 100-year flood by four feet, and the project would remove about 60,000 acres from agricultural production so hardwood trees could be planted to increase wetlands.
The levee board lawsuit claimed the EPA’s veto was illegal because the project was approved by Congress before 1977, when the agency was given veto power under the Clean Water Act.
EPA officials have said the pump project doesn’t meet all the requirements to proceed under the Clean Water Act, regardless of the timing.

The environmentalists
Louie Miller, state director for the Sierra Club, applauded the dismissal of the lawsuit.
“Today marks the final nail in the coffin of one of the most costly and environmentally destructive projects ever contrived,” Miller said. “This truly marks the end of an era in Mississippi politics.”
“The Pumps boondoggle rose to the level of being one of only 11 projects ever vetoed in the 40 year history of the Clean Water Act,” stated Cynthia Sarthou of Gulf Restoration Network.
However, the levee board’s chief engineer, Peter Nimrod, said last week no one is looking at the real issue, and he insisted politics are being put ahead of what is best for everyone.
Of the EPA, Nimrod said: “They hurt the environment by not allowing us to build it.”

The real issue
Mississippi Republican Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker advised the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations that the Yazoo Backwater Project should be exempt from the EPA veto.
The senators say the project should be exempt from the veto and in a written statement 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. When the EPA says it wants the area to be pristine, it proves the argument has nothing to do with the environment.

It’s a lot of money
For sure, the Yazoo Backwater Project is controversial.
Certainly, the high price of the project compared with the number of people it will help in the short or long term is disturbing. And it is true that 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.
But no reasonable person can be in favor of what the EPA has done in the name of environmental protection.
Other than the price tag, there is no 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 naturally occuring wetlands that include the precense of plants such as cattails that are adapted to wet areas. There would also be a 34 percent increase in aquatic resources, which encompasses all the possible roles for water, including human survival needs, supporting aquatic ecosystems and an essential component of economic development.
In addition, the reforestation would improve water quality in the region.
But at what cost?
$220 million.
That’s a lot, for sure.
If at any time there were 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 is, or would be, specifically for the Yazoo Backwater Project. Maybe the EPA is working on a hush-hush, backdoor plan that would change the way the $220 million is used. Maybe the feds want to buy the land from the owners. Maybe. Probably not.
No one is talking about any other option.
But here’s what everybody should be talking about:
The EPA’s view that rejecting 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.
What we have now is a result of the flood control system put in place 100 years ago, a system that, by all accounts, is a mess.
Because of that, the water from the annual spring floods is, at this very moment, rising against the levees in a giant man-made bathtub. Soon, that water will be destroying wetlands.
No environmental do-gooders are going to change that by stopping the Yazoo Backwater Project.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

What will tourism bill do for Mississippi tourism?

September 14th, 2009 Comments off

 

I seriously wonder what the new legislation passed and co-sponsored by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) will do to help tourism in Mississippi.

The legislation “would revitalize federal efforts to attract more foreign tourists to the United States and counter the steep decline in international travel following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.”

But what would it do for Mississippi?

I am asking the question, only.

This should be looked into more closely, particularly since Blues and Country Music tourism are of high priority to the Mississippi Development Authority.

Ask Billy Johnson of the Highway 61 Blues Museum what tourism means to his operation in Leland as well as the rest of the Mississippi Delta, and even the rest of Mississippi.

I am glad that Sen. Cochran sponsored this bill, but I am more hopeful this will be a tool for us to bring more tourists and more money to all of Mississippi.

 

See story at http://msbusiness.com/blog/2009/09/senate-passes-tourism-bill/

Tastes a lot like chickpeas

September 11th, 2009 Comments off

As I waited at Sal and Mookies in Jackson for my pizza to take home to the family, I sat down with a soft drink and reached into bowl of nuts. … Not peanuts, but chickpeas. … It reminded me of the story I read in the most recent edition of “Time” about cotton.

Yes cotton.

While we have been writing off the South’s cash crop for the last decade, it appears scientists have been having other ideas.

According the “Time” article, ‘It’s as true in today’s world as it was in the antebellum South: cotton is king.’

Could it be?

Well, for more than 7,000 cotton has mostly been used for its fiber. Apparently, however, cotton seed is rich in protein. And protein could help feed lots of people, right?

Yup, except cotton has a chemical in it that is toxic. The toxic “gossypol” actually helps repel insects from the plant while it is growing. You remove the gossypol, you remove any chance of having cotton in the first place.

Until now.

Scientists, according to this article, have found a way to remove the toxic chemical, yet preserve the insect-fighting abilities.

So, now you could have a “Cheap and an abundant form of protein for everyone.”

Great for the South, right?

Great for Mississippi right?

More cotton demand, means higher prices, which means better times for farmers, which might even mean better times for the Delta and Southwest Mississippi, right?

My only question is, did we get away from cotton too soon. Do we still have the infrastructure (cotton gins) to take on a heavy demand for cotton again.

I don’t know the answer, but as I sat at Sal and Mookies, I thought about that last paragraph of the story in time, which read, “Genetically modified cottonseeds will need government approval before they hit grocery shelves, and they’re more likely to be used first to supplement fish or animal feed. But with the global population still on the rise and farmland limited, the planet can use free protein. And you might even like it. “It’s not bad,” says (the scientist that made this cotton-seed discovery), who has popped a few seeds. “Tastes like chickpeas.”

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1920290,00.html

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