As the surging waters of the Mississippi threaten communities and farmland all along the river's course, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's callous disregard for flood protection in the Lower Mississippi Delta is thrown into high relief.
Several years ago, EPA "vetoed" key elements of a vital flood-control project intended to reduce effects of Mississippi River flooding in the lower Delta.
A rising tide of bureaucratic indifference: EPA "veto" of Yazoo flood-control project
Peter Nimrod, Chief Engineer of the Mississippi Levee Board
PLF attorneys have just filed an appeal with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in our litigation to support completion of the Yazoo Backwater Project, a vital flood-control project that has been unjustifiably derailed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"Our litigation couldn't be more relevant than right now, when once again the region is threatened with flooding due to high cresting along the Mississippi River," said PLF Senior Staff Attorney Damien Schiff.
We're representing the Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners - the agency tasked with protecting the region from flooding.
"EPA's veto means that the residents of the South Delta are the only people in the Mississippi River watershed who do not have effective flood control in place," said Schiff.
|EPA had no business pulling the plug on this vital pumping facility.
When the Mississippi River floods, the natural gravitational flow of other, smaller rivers in the area is impeded, causing them to overflow and inundate the Backwater Area of the lower Delta. The pumping station would lift waters out of the Backwater Area, back into the Mississippi River, to flow down to the Gulf of Mexico.
Although the highest currents of the Mississippi have not reached the region yet, waters in the backwater area were already 19 feet above normal as of earlier this week. People have had to move out and hundreds of thousands of acres of crops are threatened to be inundated.
EPA overreach puts public safety in peril
"As we will argue to the appellate court, the law and the evidence are clear: EPA had no business pulling the plug on this vital pumping facility," said Schiff. "Farmland, businesses, and the lives and homes of thousands of people in the lower Mississippi Delta are at stake. Congress authorized the Yazoo Backwater Project as early as 1941 because the threat of devastating floods is always present, and protective measures must be taken.
"Under the terms of the Clean Water Act, this project is immune from EPA interference because Congress approved it after a formal environmental briefing. When Congress appropriated money for the pumping station in 1982, lawmakers had received an environmental impact statement from the Army Corps of Engineers. Congress had all the required information before them. We believe that the evidence will make this clear to the appellate court."
Pulling the plug on an environmentally sensitive project
EPA vetoed the pump project in 2008, claiming that the project would harm wetlands. "It is ironic that EPA has dammed up this project, because it has been carefully designed to be environmentally sensitive," said Schiff. "For example, new vegetation would be planted across more than 55,000 acres as part of a major reforestation plan."
Peter Nimrod, chief engineer with the Levee Board, stated: "Besides providing protection against devastating floods, the Yazoo Backwater Project will vastly increase benefits for every environmental resource including wetlands, terrestrial, aquatic, and duck habitat, through the reforestation of the one-year floodplain. It is truly a model plan."
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