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ROSS REILY: 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, 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 continues to oppose the project under the Clean Water Act.

A few years ago, former U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) asked 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. Much like everything else since the mid-1970s and this issue. Nothing came of it.

And now … flooding in Southern states, but particularly in the south Delta this spring will be “potentially historic,” NOAA said in an advisory.

Rapidly melting snow in the upper Midwest is contributing to flooding that will eventually make its way downstream to the Gulf Coast, forecasters have said.

EPA doesn’t understand the Yazoo Backwater Project

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.

Other than the price tag, however, there has never been a 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 several hundred 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 Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018


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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal and has been with Journal Incorporated in some capacity for more than 12 years. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids, 2 dogs and a hamster named Chainsaw. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

One comment

  1. joneal4@gmail.com

    OK, rich wingnut, you figure out how to live without water. You’re so smart, I’m sure you can do it.

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