“There are layers of reasons why this is a bad project,” said Melissa Samet, senior counsel at the National Wildlife Federation, who has followed the project for decades, ”but worst of all is it really gives a false promise of hope to people who are suffering from flooding.”
…Many residents believe there is a solution to their persistent, yearly flooding woes — if only the government would cut through the red tape to enact it. Locals like Deere believe that an unfinished Army Corps of Engineers project known as the Yazoo Pumps, a potential drain for the levee system that protects the Delta, would hold back the floodwaters that regularly threaten almost 20,000 people here.
…Residents of the region, local farmers and Mississippi politicians are calling for the revival of the pumps — a project vetoed by then-President George W. Bush’s administration, called “one of the worst projects ever conceived by Congress” by the late Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain in 2004, and endlessly decried by environmental advocates.
…The project has been debated for almost 80 years, with frustration and anger building with the passing time.
….Environmental advocates and longtime civil servants who have worked on the project, however, argue that the pumps come at a high cost, potentially draining tens of thousands of vital wetland acres that supports one of the most unique wildlife habitats in the country.
…Conservationists say the Delta’s bottomland hardwood wetlands create one of the most important ecosystems in the country. Twenty percent of the nation’s ducks, 450 different species, including 257 species of birds, rely on these wetlands’ natural resources.
They [would] be devastated by the pumps, according to the EPA’s veto, which said that [up to] 67,000 acres of wetlands could be drained if the pumps were installed.
…“It was a hard decision because EPA knew the area needed flood protection but our analysis of widespread environmental impacts, costs, and other complications fully justified the veto.”
…Buyouts, wetland reforestation and raised homes and roadways are ideas proposed by Shabman in another report that he produced for the EPA about potential alternatives. Environmental advocates, however, claim local leaders were never curious to explore such ideas because they didn’t come with expensive construction contracts benefiting a small number of people in Mississippi.
…Because of those rising waters, Branning entered his property into the Wetlands Preserve Program in 1999, which provides him compensation for the land that he can’t farm if he allows it to be reforested.
“We did that because the program added value, in my opinion, to the land because the land had been cleared and being farmed unsuccessfully numerous years,” he said. “It may do okay for two years and then in two years the high water comes.”
…Branning said he’s happy that it’s helping the environment and noticed that some wildlife has returned, which is good for him as a hunter.
Mississippi residents flooded out for four months say the EPA could save them but won’t