On April 16, 2020, the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced a Notice of Intent (NOI) to conduct a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Yazoo Backwater (YBW) area. In 2007, the Mississippi Levee Board presented a plan for the installation of a pump station that would prevent the flooding of roads, homes, and farmland in the backwater area. The 2007 plan would have restored 55,600 acres of forestland, reduced the size of the pumping capacity, and would not have engaged the pumps until the backwater reached the 87’ elevation. In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a section 404(c) veto of the plan, effectively killing the project.
The YBW area has experienced historical flood for the past several years, with the 2019 and 2020 floods being the worst since the Flood of 1973. In 2019, the backwater reached an elevation of 98.2 feet flooding 548,000 acres including 231,000 of cropland, 686 homes, and three highways. It also had a devastating effect on wildlife populations and ecosystems. The devastation caused by this flooding prompted the USACE and EPA to begin working on a new proposal. The new proposal includes well fields to replace stream flows during low-flow periods and relocating the pumps to a more suitable location. The revised SEIS for this new plan is expected to be completed and published for review sometime in October.
The Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation has submitted a letter to the USACE expressing our appreciation and support of their willingness to conduct a new SEIS. We also stressed, contrary to popular belief, this flooding is not a natural disaster but an intentional and foreseeable man-made event. MFBF’s letter also outlines numerous environmental factors we feel did not receive sufficient consideration in previous environmental assessments. Those include devastating wildlife loses, an overstatement of wetland loses, and a failure to consider mitigation from USDA conservation programs. A copy of the letter can be viewed here.MFBF SEIS comments
USACE will be accepting comments on the NOI until June 15, 2020. We encourage others to submit comments supporting this effort. Comments may be submitted by email to YazooBackwater@USACE.army.mil or by mail to EdwardE. Belk Jr., Director of Programs, Mississippi Valley Division, USACE Vicksburg Division, ATTN: CEMVK-PPMD, 4155 East Clay Street Room 248, Vicksburg, MS 39183.