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Posts Tagged ‘Sen. Thad Cochran’

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.

McCain takes aim square at Mississippi catfish farmers

March 11th, 2011 Comments off

Bennie Thompson ain’t talking about catfish, but Sen. John McCain is.
We have asked Congressman Thompson to comment on the new catfish inspection program that critics say threatens to derail U.S. trade relations with Vietnam. He has never returned a phone call or an e-mail.
However, last week, we ran a story on our website about the catfish industry’s reaction to a proposal by McCain to repeal that very same law, and the McCain camp was on the phone.
They wanted to know where the story came from, and why we were running it and why we didn’t have a response from Sen. McCain.
That’s what I am looking for, I said.
This whole thing has boggled my mind from the beginning and I wanted someone to explain why there would be any consideration for choosing Vietnamese fish in a trade debate ahead of U.S. catfish.
What the McCain camp sent was a canned, rambling floor statement, which read, in part, “Mr. President, Section 11016 is nothing more than the latest effort by members of Congress serving the special interests of the catfish industry in their home states. A similar protectionist tactic was tried in the 2002 Farm Bill when many of these same members slipped in language that made it illegal to label Vietnamese catfish (‘pangasius’) as catfish in U.S. retail markets.”
Mississippi’s Thad Cochran also responded to interview requests, saying, “My initial reaction to legislation to repeal the USDA catfish inspection authority is that it is uncalled for.
“I will oppose it,” Cochran continued. “The Department of Agriculture should be given a chance to finally carry out the inspection authority Congress gave it in 2008. This inspection process would help ensure that imported catfish are as safe and nutritious as the catfish produced in Mississippi and elsewhere. We do not have that assurance today The current federal inspection regime involves testing a very small percentage – only 2 percent — of the catfish imported into this country. While I regret the long, drawn-out process to implement this USDA mandate, I believe it remains important.”
Unfortunately, neither Cochran nor McCain’s positions do a lot to help the Mississippi catfish farmers, mostly conservative and mostly Republican, who are going broke.
As someone without a dog in the fight, other than being from a state that produces farm-raised catfish, it would appear Sen. McCain is more concerned about trade with Vietnam than the economy in the South, specifically.
Mississippi catfish growers have taken a huge financial hit from the import of catfish products, according to statistics from U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In recent weeks, we reported that Itta Bena-based Heartland Catfish is making cutbacks. Many other independent farmers are turning over their ponds to go back to row crops, and this has been going on for years now.
It won’t be too long before there isn’t a debate to have as all of the catfish ponds around the South will have dried up.
We won’t take it for granted, like we do now, of the all-you-can-eat buffets across Mississippi and the rest of the Southeast.
It will become something we eat when we go and catch the big one; you know, the one that has grown up in the Mississippi River where it has survived on a constant diet of sludge and pollutants.
You know, kind of like the fish the Vietnamese importing to us now.

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

Michigan vs. Mississippi: Let’s get it on!

October 9th, 2009 Comments off

It is really easy to fall into the trap of trashing Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm after her recent barb at Mississippi.
According to the Gongwer News Service, Granholm was defending tax increases this week when she said, “Now is the time to stand up for those priorities. What we’re fighting for is Michigan not becoming Mississippi.”

Let’s throw the stats at her. … Mississippi has the 33rd lowest unemployment rate in the country at 9.5 percent while Michigan has the highest at 15.2 percent, according to the August statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Shame on you Governor Granholm,” Mississippi’s State Senator Dean Kirby, a Republican who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, wrote in an e-mail. “Have you compared your tax structure to that of Mississippi? Have you ever been to Mississippi? Shame, shame shame !!”

Shame, Shame, Shame !!!!!

OK, now let’s take a look at the real issue here — perception.

We still have a perception problem. Folks around the country view us as uneducated and backwoods.

We know that’s not true.

But it wasn’t so long ago that New York’s Charles Rangel made similar comments that enraged us all. Instead of firing back, we must do a better job of educating folks about our wonderful slice of the South.

It should be pointed out that whatever music Granholm listens to likely was born in Mississippi.

She should be reminded that every major form of music in America got its roots in Mississippi – from Elvis Presley and rock n roll in Tupelo to country and western in Meridian to blues and jazz in the Mississippi Delta.

Gov. Granholm should be reminded of the great literature and writers who have come from Mississippi – from Faulkner to Welty.

We also would like to point out the great journalism tradition that we have in Mississippi ranging from Pulitzer winners of the 1940s with the Delta Democrat Times to a 2006 Pulitzer winner in the Sun Herald of Biloxi.

Mississippi is a wonderful place, and we would like the opportunity to show everyone what we are talking about.

Many of us in Mississippi have visited Michigan and been treated wonderfully. We would like to show Gov. Granholm the type of hospitality we can extend.

Certainly, Gov. Granholm would not have made the insensitive comments she has against Mississippi if she had spent any significant time here.

Having said all of that, there are plenty of reasons that Mississippi isn’t always at the top of the popularity list.

We all know the reasons — education, racial tensions etc…

While we are right to defend ourselves against the ignorance of the Rangels and Granholms of the world, we must be honest with ourselves.

We have a long way to go, and people like Granholm and Rangel wouldn’t have made the comments they made if there we didn’t have a problem with perception.