JACKSON, Miss. (CN) – The Environmental Protection Agency ignored a congressional mandate in vetoing the capstone of a flood control project 40 years in the making, the Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners claims in Federal Court. The board says the Yazoo Backwater Project is needed to prevent routine flooding in the Yazoo Backwater, bounded to the south by the Yazoo River.
The Levee Commission challenges the EPA’s of a pumping station needed for the Yazoo project. The commission claims that federal flood control legislation in 1928 and 1941 exempted the project from Clean Water Act vetoes.
Congress passed the laws in response to Mississippi River flooding, including a 1927 inundation that killed at least 240 people.
The Yazoo Backwater Project, started in 1969, includes floodgates, levees and channels. The Army Corps of Engineers studied whether the project was economically justified after a 1973 flood caused $65 million in damage.
The analysis included an environmental impact statement, released in 1982, which evaluated the dredge-and-fill impacts of the 17,000 cubic feet per second pumping station. Funding was approved in 1984, and construction began two years later.
Even though the environmental impact statement was properly sent to Congress for review, the lawsuit claims, the EPA vetoed the pumping station in 2008, saying it would degrade 67,000 acres of Yazoo Backwater wetlands.
The commissioners point to a 2007 supplemental environmental impact statement that displayed “particular environmental sensitivity” and concluded that the pumping station would increase area for wetlands, waterfowl forage, and aquatic spawning and rearing.
The Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners, represented by the pro-business Pacific Legal Foundation, seeks a judgment that it is exempt from the veto, and wants the veto to be set aside.
The National Wildlife Federation claims that the pump project is a waste of money and will threaten fish and waterfowl habitat prized by hunters and anglers, by transforming lands “from natural resources to industrial resources” to develop “extremely marginal farmland.”