Trump Administration Goes After Clean Water Act

The Trump Administration has officially put forward a proposal to build the Yazoo Pumps – a shockingly irresponsible project.

Big Sunflower River | Photo by Stephen Kirkpatrick

Today, the Trump Administration officially put forward a proposal to build the Yazoo Pumps – a shockingly irresponsible project that will put tens of thousands of people at risk, threaten the integrity of the Clean Water Act, and degrade hundreds of thousands of acres of globally significant natural resources.

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Tell the Trump Administration not to build the Yazoo Pumps!

The Yazoo Pumps was vetoed under President George W. Bush in 2008 because it would drain or damage globally significant wetlands in the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta, the historic Mississippi River floodplain north of Vicksburg, MS. Despite the veto, the Trump Administration is proposing the move forward with constructing the Yazoo Pumps under the auspices of “flood control.” However, the project will actually increase flood risk for most people living and working in the area.

Communities in the Yazoo River batture land north Vicksburg, MS will see a lot more water as much as 9 billion gallons of water will be pumped into the Yazoo River every day during flood events. Just downstream of the pump’s proposed location, the International Paper Mill has two wastewater treatment ponds in the Yazoo River floodplain that are protected by low berms. Should those berms give way, the residents in downstream Vicksburg, MS could be flooded with toxic water from the paper mill’s treatment ponds.

Yazoo Backwater Levee Remaining Freeboard 2019 Flood (0.3ft) (Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley Division Presentation on 2019 Mississippi River Flood, Joey Windham, Chief Watershed Division)

And, horrifyingly, the Yazoo Pumps would actually threaten to flood the very people it is falsely touted to protect. By pumping an additional 9 billion gallons of water per day into the Yazoo River during flood events the project would actually threaten the integrity of the Yazoo Backwater Levee. This levee was within inches of overtopping during the 2019 Flood. If the Yazoo Backwater Levee fails, the entire Mississippi-Yazoo Delta would flood, threatening more than 41,000 people and almost 19,000 structures.

The decision by the George W. Bush Administration to veto the Yazoo Pumps safeguards vital wetlands in the Delta National Forest, Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and countless other conservation areas in the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta. These wetlands represent some of the last remaining bottomland habitat that is still partially connected to the Lower Mississippi River and provide critical habitat to hundreds of fish and wildlife species. The Mississippi-Yazoo Delta is in the heart of the Mississippi River flyway – a migration corridor that conveys a vast array of migrating species traveling the globe.

  • Millions of birds use the area during their fall and spring migrations. This includes 20 percent of the nation’s duck population!
  • American eels migrate from their breeding grounds in the mid-Atlantic Sargasso Sea to North American rivers, using floodplain wetlands, like those in the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta, to grow and mature on a rich diet of frogs and insects.
  • Even tiny ruby-throated hummingbirds and monarch butterflies can be spotted loading up on nectar-rich flowers before flying across the Gulf of Mexico to their over-wintering grounds in South and Central America.

In addition to migrating species, this area is important to several at-risk species, including the federally-threatened wood stork, the federally-endangered pallid sturgeon, the federally-threatened American alligator, and the state-endangered Louisiana black bear. The Louisiana black bear is the species renown for inspiring the Teddy Bear. President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot one that had been tied to a tree on the banks of the Big Sunflower River in the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta – the very same area at risk today! The bear was recently removed from the federal threatened and endangered species list thanks, in part, to reintroduction efforts in the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta.

1902 Clifford Berryman cartoon

While President George W. Bush’s administration vetoed the project because of the catastrophic environmental impacts, it’s not just fish and wildlife who need these wetlands. The Mississippi-Yazoo Delta is also a critically important aquifer recharge zone for the Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer, part of the Mississippi Embayment, which provides drinking water for 8 million people in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Irrigation withdraws from this aquifer system to support cotton production in the southern states has already caused some of the most severe groundwater declines in the U.S. The Yazoo Pumps would siphon off water from wetlands that are critically important for the aquifer’s recharge, potentially exacerbating the region’s already significant groundwater depletion.

Big Sunflower River Water Quality Monitoring by John Ruskey

The Clean Water Act veto authority has only been used 13 times since the Act was authorized in 1972 to protect and restore the nation’s water resources. This decision to build the Yazoo Pumps, if allowed to proceed, would neuter the Clean Water Act veto authority and raises the specter of the 12 other projects that have been vetoed. This includes projects like Spruce No. 1 Surface Mine – one of the largest mountain top removal project ever conceived – and the Two Forks Dam – one of the largest water storage projects ever proposed in the West.

The Yazoo Pumps is a shockingly irresponsible project. Instead of building the Yazoo Pumps, investment is needed in projects and programs that will protect people from flood losses. These alternatives include buying out homes, elevating or flood-proofing infrastructure, and purchasing wetland easements from farmers. Local leaders need to work with state and federal agencies to find long-term affordable housing for poor residents who may be displaced to avoid climate change fueled flooding. Investing in these economic and sustainable options would provide financial security for residents while protecting and enhancing the valuable natural resources of the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta.

Big Sunflower River Home on Stilts by Stephan Kirkpatrick

Take action today and tell the Trump Administration not to build the Yazoo Pumps!

Take Action

Tell the Trump Administration not to build the Yazoo Pumps!

29 responses to “Trump Administration Goes After Clean Water Act

    1. The pumps will keep the water clean….without them you have septic spillage, low oxygen, fuel leaks, and all manner of contamination in your water.

  1. I lived through the 2019 flood of the Yazoo Backwater Area. This article is not only misleading but riddled thoroughly with false information including photos. Please do your research. Close to 700 homes were destroyed, damaged or comprised by 7 months of rain water sitting over the basin. Businesses were destroyed or severely damaged. This is not river water, but trapped rainwater because the project was never completed. It was blocked by false information given to the EPA by do called organizations who touted saving the wildlife. This is the last of the MR&T projects authorized in 1941 to protect areas along the Mississippi River from flooding. The Mississippi River drains 41% of the US into the Gulf of Mexico. The water removed from this basin will not flood anything downstream. We are 10 miles above Vicksburg and it will not even affect Vicksburg.
    The destruction of an environment. The 2019 #yazoobackwaterflood is proof, factual data this pump station is needed to save the wetlands, rivers, lakes, the terrestrials ie. fox, rabbit, deer, turkey, etc… If the animals could not fly, they drowned, starved or were cannibalized by other stranded animals. The farms, the nearly 700 residents, infrastructure, businesses were devastated. 12 feet of water over 550,000 acres for seven months killed animals, trees, creating a toxic environment by stagnating water over these farms, communities, businesses….
    The USACE has been gathering data for years and work independently from any political party. American Rivers is using politics to help get donations to fund their organization and its high salaried executives and employees. A lot of their work is fundraising and getting free labor. (Indeed).American Rivers is using scare tactics to get donations and this false article moved forward. Their agenda is deceitful in regards to the Yazoo Pumps. Shameless tactics American Rivers.
    Please do your research.
    Please do your own research. Do not trust this article.
    There are several sites to visit of the stories and photos this flood caused. People died, animals died, homes destroyed, infrastructure severely damaged and an economy and environment nearly destroyed.
    #yazoobackwaterflood
    Forgotten Backwater Flood

    1. According to the Corps’ own data, these homes will CONTINUE to flood with the pumps in place. There will be no flood relief for homeowners. The water could not have been pumped out of the backwater during the 2019 event because the water in the Yazoo River was within inches of overtopping the Backwater Levee – which would have flooded the area where the water had just been pumped out. Pumping water out, just to have it pour back over the levee is an exercise in denial. Instead of building the Pumps, which would drain or damage roughly 200,000 acres of wetlands, the Corps needs to invest in effective flood risk reduction options, like home buy outs. For the amount of money the Corps is proposing to spend on this project, they could replace every frequently flooded structure with TWO new homes outside of the flood hazard area. We can literally spend half the money, relocate all the impacted homeowners to safer areas, and avoid the wetland damages.

      1. Why continue up to build that pyramid of lies to your donors. The Corps’ data EMPHATICALLY shows that no homes or roads will flood with the pumps….ZERO! There was also ZERO chance of the Backwater Levee being overtopped in the 2019 flood. Your understanding of the FACTS is abysmal. Further…Corp data tells you NO wetlands will be drained by the pumps….EVER!!! As for the cost of replacing homes and businesses…that is FINE if the government so chooses…however, the cost exceeds $1.5 BILLION. Please quit fear mongering and use FACTS!

      2. Well…that’s completely incorrect and I love how your site won’t let me post the FACTS that negate your fiction? Way to be transparent and fair!

      3. For the record, because of spam and innapropriate language we manually review all blog comments. Unfortunately we can’t do this in realtime, but we try to do it as quickly as possible. That is why you occasionally see a delay in the posting of a comment.

  2. I’m glad some of you are fact checking this shameless article.
    Most importantly, the USACE has provided the proposal and put forth factual data about the pumping station. The USACE is not a polItical organization and calling it a Trump project is just a lie.
    I live in the YBA and many of the photos American Rivers supplied are not even made here. The backwater/rainwater does not even affect the Big Sunflower, but has practically destroyed the Little Sunflower. This levee system will save habitat for wildlife. 550,000 under water for months provided no nesting sites, no seed or food from farms. Thousands of terrestrial animals starved, drowned or were cannibalized by each other. There were no winners. The pumping station will not affect anything on the other side of the levee past Vicksburg.
    I can go on and on, but please do your research before you comment. This article is misleading and mostly false.
    #yazoobackwaterflood

    1. As you helpfully point out, the increase in flood risk doesn’t extend beyond Vicksburg. There are plenty of people who live in the Yazoo River batture between the Deer Creek location and Vicksburg and they don’t deserve to by flooded by the Yazoo Pumps. Not to mention the fact that the Pumps will threaten the integrity of the Yazoo Backwater Levee itself. The National Levee Database identifies that there is an elevated risk of overtopping and subsequent crevassing – which the Pumps will definitely contribute to this risk.

  3. Trump’s like some kind of wicked step-parent in a children’s book, selling off all the heirlooms and heritage while he lives life on the hog and the kids go threadbare and hungry. Unfortunately in real life this may not have the same happy ending as those stories.

  4. The Yazoo Pumps was vetoed under President George W. Bush in 2008 because it would drain or damage globally significant wetlands in the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta, the historic Mississippi River floodplain north of Vicksburg, MS. Despite the veto, the Trump Administration is proposing the move forward with constructing the Yazoo Pumps under the auspices of “flood control.” However, the project will actually increase flood risk for most people living and working in the area.

    Communities in the Yazoo River batture land north Vicksburg, MS will see a lot more water as much as 9 billion gallons of water will be pumped into the Yazoo River every day during flood events. Just downstream of the pump’s proposed location, the International Paper Mill has two wastewater treatment ponds in the Yazoo River floodplain that are protected by low berms. Should those berms give way, the residents in downstream Vicksburg, MS could be flooded with toxic water from the paper mill’s treatment ponds.

  5. As a former Corps of Engineers employee (Hydrologist) and then a resident of Vicksburg, I strongly oppose this irresponsible Yazoo Pump project. Residents and the environment should be protected, not endangered. More than enough damage has already been done to the Lower Mississippi River Basin through extravagantly expensive, futile attempts to control the river’s discharge.

    1. While your opposition to this project is questionable IF you are actually a Corps hydrologist who understands the area and project design, you are definitely entitled to your opinion. Those of us in the YBA who have been deprived of the promised mitigation of the demise of the Eudora Floodway for 80 years are amenable to your whims BUT takings by the government are by law required to be compensated at FMV. Compensation will far exceed the cost of the pumps. We are fine with either! We are NOT fine with being forcibly flooded and our property values declining as a result….for 80 years. Either put up (and pay the $1.5billion+ we are owed) or shut up (and finish the designed project that unnaturally put us in this detrimental position).

  6. This project has been fought for many decades with good reason. It’s impacts were significantly high to warrant a seldom used “veto” (actually a determination by the EPA about the unsuitability of deposition of dredged or fill material). It’s time this project were put to bed forever, not reinvigorated by an environmentally challenged administration.

  7. Clean Water Act vetoes are supposed to be final and they are applied sparingly. Only 13 have ever been issued since the Act was signed into law in 1972.

    The Yazoo Pumps project is shockingly irresponsible. While the project will drain wetlands to make more land available for cultivation, it will also increase flood risk for 41,000 people in the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta.

  8. When all the trees and animals are dead and all the air, land and water polluted you will then realize you and your progeny can’t eat money……….

  9. The Yazoo Pumps project works against everything we’ve tried to do since the early 70s. Halt the Yazoo Pumps in their tracks and don’t allow this reversal to move forward.

  10. The photo above depicting .3ft of freeboard on the Yazoo Backwater Levee which states it is a photo of the 2019 flood was actually taken in May of 2011 during a MS River headwater flood as documented in Divine Providence by Charles A. Camillo on page 196 using almost the exact same (uncropped) image. There was no significant flooding of the Yazoo Backwater Area in 2011. Had the pumps been installed at the time, they would not have been operating during this headwater flood event. This flood event proved the Yazoo Backwater Levee’s design is structurally sound. This levee was built to perform exactly as shown–holding out MS/Yazoo River flooding. What this levee was NOT designed to do is hold 98′ of water pushed up against the interior side for 6+ months. The pump project will protect the structural integrity of this levee by allowing it to function as designed (with pumps) to protect the 41,000 people and 19,000 structures of concern to American Rivers. This is merely one obviously glaring error in American Rivers’ campaign of intentional deception with regard to the Yazoo pumps. Before funding and supporting American Rivers, ask yourself “what else is this organization hiding when they willing and publicly stoop to this level of deception for fundraising and fear mongering?” For REAL photos of the devastation of the 2019 flood, see https://www.facebook.com/Forgotten-Backwater-Flood-242819096673705/

    1. The Corps provided this photo as a representation of the 2019 Flood, please see the attached slide deck. Your point that the levee cannot withstand water on both sides is exactly our point. By moving the Pumps to Deer Creek, the water won’t have anywhere to go, spilling back over the levee that it has just been pumped out of – a frightening exercise if the levee holds, and an outright dangerous one if the levee crevasses, as the Corps warns in the National Levee Database where the Yazoo Backwater Levee is listed as only “moderately” safe.

      Thank you for pointing us to these photos. We will be asking the Corps to georeference these homes to see if any are within the small tracks of land that will marginally benefit from fewer days of inundation. Although, given the cost of the project, we could offer each of these homeowners $350,000 to move out of the flood zone – a substantial amount, given the median home value for the area is only $120,000.Inundation Map

      1. No “meaningful” flood relief! That is just not true. No houses will flood and most farmland will be out of water. The pumps will save the oxbow lakes from filling up and flooding more homes. There will be plenty of water for wetlands and if there is a drought, wells will pump water into the backwater area to feed aquifers. It’s a control structure not a dam.

      2. According to the Corps, homes in the Backwater will CONTINUE to flood even with the Pumps in place. The groundwater wells will likely not be effective at maintaining the wetlands because 1. There is no information or data to support their potential effectiveness, 2. They are located far away from the impact zone and during drought, the water likely would not make it to the area, 3. Since the water is being drained to increase agricultural development – why would farmers even want to pump water to flood the land? – indicating that this mitigation proposal is designed to fail, 4. The aquifer is already severely depleted, in part because of lost wetlands in the Yazoo Backwater Area, pumping more water out of the Mississippi River Alluvial Aquifer may exacerbate the already precarious situation and contribute to future groundwater shortages.
        Inundation Map

      3. You are quite welcome for the flooded home information! Also, please research the homes which are not flooded but also not accessible while you are at it. I’m not questioning that the Corps provided you with some photos but I KNOW they never depicted the photo you showed of the 2011 headwater flood as one that was taken in 2019. That is YOUR mistake. It’s okay to admit you were wrong! The fact that you don’t know the difference in a headwater and backwater flood when looking at the photo reveals your lack of knowledge of the area. I am asking you to come to my home in the YBA (it’s comfortable…and above the “median home value” of the area🙄) for a stay and take the opportunity to learn the area before espousing ridiculous propaganda.

    2. Well the interview and pictures on Facebook paint a much different picture. It appears that without the pumps not only residents of this area, but WILDLIFE & their habitat are threatened NOW. Seems to me American Rivers should do some more research on this – Seriously – you think there actually ARE wetlands existing there now? Its become a lake! No wetlands! And quite frankly, this is what climate change looks like – front & center. Of course its going to become much worse – look at ANY community on the coasts of this country and others, i.e., how many cities are presently using pumps to keep from losing land, structures, WILDLIFE HABITAT right now?

      1. Good points, Maggie Frazier! In addition, there are several pumping stations along the west side of the river. They effectively function in the same capacity as the pumping station intended for the lower Delta. Olivia Dorothy, please give us American River’s attitude toward these existing pumping stations. Do you wish to remove them?

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