Once again it seems that families that live and work in the South Mississippi Delta have been kicked in the teeth as the EPA has decided that the Proposed Plan for the Yazoo Pumps Project is prohibited by the Clean Water Act, essentially halting the project.
The residents of the area have fought back several devastating floods in the last few years that have displaced approximately 700 people and taken the lives of two individuals.
Farmers have lost thousands of acres of crops as the water sat on some land well into the growing season. The loss of revenue has been substantial.
In the spring of 2021, the Mississippi Levee board said that the historic flooding of the last three years wiped out generations of wildlife -including the only endangered species in the area, the pond berry, which cannot survive underwater for six months.
Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith who championed the project and spoke highly of it at the Delta Council's annual meeting in June, said, "This is an absolutely terrible day for the people who live in the Mississippi Delta and an even sadder day for the country when an agency like the EPA refuses to do the right thing for the people."
And, a bit of mud is being flung as she claims that Congressman Bennie Thompson destroyed the project, taking one position in his district but working against it in Washington.
Mississippi's senior Sen. Roger Wicker said that he was deeply frustrated by the announcement and that it would leave the people in the South Delta in harm's way. He mentioned impassable roads, the death of plant and wildlife, and the disruption of business and lives in the Delta.
The EPA's announcement notes that the Trump administration's decision in November of 2020 to approve the pump project was a violation of the Clean Water Act and did not reflect the recommendations of career scientists and technical staff.
The assistant administrator for the office of water at the EPA, Radhika Fox said that she was concerned about the serious nature of the effects of flooding on the people and economy of the lower Delta and that she wants to work with the Army Corp and other to find a path forward that addresses flooding concerns in an environmentally protective matter.
In the meantime, the plans to actually fix the problem have been thwarted. The EPA is not the agency that will fix the situation. That work will have to be done by the ones who have been working on the problem for years and years.
There are already plans in place to challenge the ruling legally, as well there should be.
In the meantime, the folks in the backwaters of the Yazoo River and the lower Mississippi Delta must sit in the bureaucratic muck and deal with the ebbs and flows of flood seasons for an unforeseeable amount of time.