Threats to Clean Water Act intensify as Senate weighs bill to overturn veto of Yazoo Pumps

August 9, 2019

August 9, 2019

Olivia Dorothy, 217-390-3658
Amy Kober, 503-708-1145

Threats to the Clean Water Act are intensifying as the Senate weighs a bill that would overturn a Clean Water Act veto of an ecologically devastating pumps project in the Mississippi Delta.

Last week, Senators Hyde-Smith and Wicker introduced legislation that would overturn the Clean Water Act veto of the Yazoo Pumps Project, located just north of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The project was vetoed by George W. Bush’s Administration in 2008 because it would have drained or damaged up to 200,000 acres of ecologically significant wetlands – an area larger than the 5 boroughs of New York City.  The vast majority of these wetlands are within protected areas, including Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, the Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, and the Delta National Forest.  And, much of the impacted private land is enrolled in conservation easements.

Should the veto be overturned, it would be the first time in the history of the Clean Water Act.  “Such an action,” warns Bob Irvin, President and CEO of American Rivers, “would pave the way for other environmentally damaging projects to move forward.”

Yazoo Pumps is touted as a flood control project that would alleviate flooding in the Mississippi Delta area devastated by this year’s high water.  But according to the Corps’ own analysis, the proposed pumps would do almost nothing to help Delta communities.  Indeed, the stated purpose of the Yazoo Pumps is to drain wetlands to expand crop production.  In fact, should the pumps be built, it is likely they would exacerbate flooding elsewhere, including around Vicksburg, Mississippi.

“It is always heartbreaking to see homes and businesses flooded. But there are better options for Delta residents that focus on getting people out of harm’s way,” said Irvin. “It is irresponsible to spend almost half a billion dollars in federal tax money on a flood control project that will devastate the Delta’s swamp ecosystem and do little to protect people.”

In 2018, American Rivers listed the Big Sunflower River as America’s #1 Most Endangered River due to similar proposals to overturn the 2008 veto of the project.