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Actions by “extremist environmental organizations trying to take over Washington” and issues of concern “have made the flood control community very nervous,” the Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners said in a statement at a Greenville, Miss. hearing of the Mississippi River Commission. “If these proposals continue to be introduced and passed by Congress,” said the board’s chief engineer, Peter Nimrod, “future flood control projects will never happen and our current flood control projects may be in jeopardy as well."
A line in the sand
“The EPA is saying you can’t lower the water level with a flood control project. By killing this project with 404(c) veto authority, the EPA is drawing a line in the sand over the future of flood control in our great nation.”
The EPA has vetoed the project, Nimrod said, “even though it was approved, authorized, and funded by Congress, and was exempt from a 404(c) veto by 404(r).
“It’s time to take up this issue again and remove the 404(c) veto power from the EPA before they kill another flood control project that has been authorized by Congress.”
The Final Reformulation Report for the Yazoo backwater project was released Nov. 16, 2007, and the EPA “illegally vetoed” it Aug. 31, 2008, Nimrod said.
“In 2008, the backwater got to 92.2 feet, which flooded 344,000 acres, including 121,000 acres of farmland. In 2009, the backwater got to 93.7 feet, which flooded nearly 400,000 acres, including 152,000 acres of farmland. Trees and wildlife were decimated by this flooding.”
In August 2009, the Mississippi Levee Board filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the northern district of Mississippi, suing the EPA over the veto.
“We believe the EPA had no legal authority to veto this project, and we asked the court to declare the veto null and void,” Nimrod said.
But, on March 28 this year, the U.S. district judge ruled against the board without granting it oral arguments.
“The board and its attorneys have reviewed the ruling and have found what they believe are errors in the ruling,” he said. “The board voted unanimously to appeal the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.”
The Yazoo Backwater Project is “a model project that will not only provide flood protection, but will vastly increase benefits for every environmental resource category, such as wetlands, terrestrial, aquatic, and duck habitat through the reforestation of the flood plain,” Nimrod said.
“The residents of the south Mississippi Delta just want what was promised them 70 years ago – it is time to complete this last phase of flood protection for the Mississippi Delta.”