Public Hearing on Yazoo Backwater Project Held A NEAR-CAPACITY crowd at the South Delta High School Auditorium in Rolling Fork showed up for the public hearing on The Draft Reformulation Report for the Yazoo Backwater Project.

Many local citizens voiced their strong support for the project and discussed the economic and social effects flooding had caused to their region. However, a number of environmental groups - including EarthJustice, the Gulf Restoration Network, the Sierra Club, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, the Wildlife Management Institute, National Wildlife Federation, the Mississippi Worker's Center, and the Center for Constitutional Rights - voiced their opposition to the project and wore "Dump the Pumps" stickers. Interestingly, at least a dozen of representatives from these groups voiced fears that the project would lead to more pesticide exposure.

"We are concerned about this project that is being proposed by the American Corps of Engineers because this project has within it, is inherent within it, deadly pesticides and exposure to those pesticides, such as the way workers have historically been exposed to pesticides," said Jaribu Hill, program director of the Mississippi Worker's Center.

"We are concerned that the only thing that has been discussed here is the issue of flooding. We know from reading the report and reading the recommendations by the EPA that this project will not even solve the problem of flooding. What it will do is it will foster and sponsor widespread, wholesale contamination of communities, and who will suffer the most? The communities in the Delta, the people who will become our clients and the clients of other civil rights attorneys who will have to represent people to see that they get rights that are denied, to see that they are redressed properly for the poisoning that they are about to be exposed to."

The Corps of Engineers, as part of their review, considered and evaluated seven plans for the South Delta including a full non-structural alternative and the Virginia Tech non-structural plan that was prepared for Region IV Environmental Protection Agency. As a result of the Corps of Engineers' studies, the Draft Report recommends plan 5 which is being supported by the Mississippi Levee Board, local public officials, and citizens in the South Delta.

The features of the recommended plan include the construction of a 14,000 cfs pumping plant which will be turned on and off at an elevation of 87 feet; reforestation easements on the 62,500 acres of developed land below the 87 foot elevation which will receive no benefits from the pump; and the operation of the Steele Bayou Structure to increase the low water stages in the basin from the current stages of 68.5 to 70 feet elevation to a range of 70 to 73 foot elevation.

As part of the reforestation easements, the Corps will provide the initial tree planting and replant until a 70 percent survival rate is achieved. The title to the land will remain in the name of the landowner who will be able to utilize this property for hunting, silviculture, and other purposes so long as timber is maintained on the land.