EPA Makes Right Decision in Stopping Damaging Yazoo Pumps Project, Says Environmental Defense Fund

September 2, 2008
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org
(Washington, DC) – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made a scientifically sound and financially wise decision today to stop a controversial flood control project in Mississippi. That’s according to one of the nation’s leading environmental advocacy groups.
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is praising the EPA’s final decision today to block the Yazoo Backwater Area Project. EDF is a long-standing opponent of the project, which would have cost taxpayers $220 million and would have caused widespread damage to tens of thousands of acres of protected land in four National Wildlife Refuges, the Delta National Forest and State Wildlife Management Areas, as well as lands enrolled in US Department of Agriculture conservation programs. 
“The Yazoo pumps were a bad idea from the start – bad for long-term flood control efforts, bad for water quality, bad for wildlife, and bad for the taxpayers who would get stuck with the bill, “ said Brian Jackson of Environmental Defense Fund. “EPA made the right decision in stopping the project.”
The Yazoo Backwater Area Project would have built a massive pumping station to move water out of part of the Mississippi River Delta. The project was designed to prevent flooding in the area and to uncover more land for farming, but in the process it would degrade as many as 200,000 acres of wetlands in the Yazoo River Basin. The project would also have adverse effects on area fisheries, wildlife, and municipal water supplies, and would have caused widespread damage to Mississippi’s dwindling bottomland hardwood forests.
The EPA has been weighing whether to exercise its authority under the Clean Water Act and stop the project. The agency held a public hearing in April; an EDF expert testified at the hearing, joining scientists, environmental activists, and Mississippi residents in opposing the plan. Another 14,000 EDF members wrote letters to EPA, Department of Interior, and the Army Corps of Engineers strongly opposing the Yazoo Pumps project, and 28,000 people signed an EDF petition on the subject.
“This action should put a final, and overdue, nail in the coffin for the Yazoo Backwater Area Project,” said Jackson. “We are happy to see EPA listened closely, both to the scientific evidence and to all the citizens who got involved early and encouraged the right decision.”