EPA protects globally-significant wetlands in Mississippi Delta

2008 Clean Water Act veto of damaging Yazoo Pumps Project is upheld

November 15, 2021

Contact: Amy Kober, 503-708-1145

Olivia Dorothy, 217-390-3658

American Rivers today applauds EPA Administrator Michael Regan’s decision to uphold the 2008 veto of the Yazoo Pumps, a massive agricultural drainage project north of Vicksburg, Mississippi. The decision will protect hundreds of thousands of acres of some of the richest wetlands in the nation along the Big Sunflower and Yazoo rivers, which flow into the Mississippi River. This vital Mississippi Delta habitat supports over 450 species of birds, fish and wildlife, from waterfowl and monarch butterflies, to pallid sturgeon, American eels and Louisiana black bear.

American Rivers listed the Big Sunflower River among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® six times between 1997 and 2020 because of the damage the Yazoo Pumps project would cause to wetlands and wildlife habitat.

“The decision to protect these globally-significant wetlands is a major win for rivers and wildlife,” said Tom Kiernan, President and CEO of American Rivers. “We applaud the EPA for basing its decision on science and we look forward to working with Delta residents and local, state and federal agencies to implement effective solutions to the flood challenges in the lower Delta.”

The Yazoo Pumps would not have protected communities from flooding. The project would have drained ecologically-significant wetlands so that a small number of large landowners could intensify agricultural production. The environmental threat from the Yazoo Pumps spurred the George W. Bush Administration to veto the project under the Clean Water Act Section 404(c) veto authority, but the Trump Administration resurrected the project in 2020.

To learn more about today’s decision, read our press release with Audubon Mississippi, Sierra Club, Healthy Gulf, and Earthjustice.