For nine of the past 10 years, floods have engulfed the Yazoo Backwater. Experts have proposed pumps to help the region. But environmental groups say pumping could harm the area. The two sides are arguing over who has residents’ best interests at heart.
The Yazoo Backwater is an area north of Vicksburg, Mississippi. It lies between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers. The Backwater comprises thousands of acres of wetlands. The region supports more than 450 species of wildlife, including several endangered ones.
Those flatlands are dominated by agriculture and dotted with small communities. Serious flooding has endangered and displaced humans and animals.
In Genesis 9:11, God promised never again to destroy the entire Earth by flood. However, localized floods still happen.
Farmers and environmentalists have argued for decades over proposals for flood-control projects in the Yazoo Backwater.
The Yazoo Pumps project would construct a 14,000 cubic-feet-per-second (nearly 105,000 gallons!) pumping plant in the area. It would drain water during floods.
Opponents say pushing water out of the south Delta could cause worse flooding along the Mississippi River. Conservationists also say that draining the entire area would harm birds and wildlife by taking away their habitats.
At one point, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) okayed the massive project. Now that decision has been overturned. Officials say the project should never have gotten the green light.
In Mississippi, the pumps have wide support. Pro-pump experts say the project will decrease the depth and duration of serious—and sometimes deadly—flooding in the Yazoo Backwater.
Peter Nimrod is chief engineer of the Mississippi Levee Board. He says recent flooding has already wiped out generations of wildlife, killed two people, and destroyed many homes in the impoverished region. He contends that national groups don’t know what is best for people in Mississippi.
“The Yazoo Backwater Pumps will save lives while increasing wetland, terrestrial, aquatic, and waterfowl resources and reforestation,” he says.
Conservation groups cheered the decision to halt the project.
“The EPA’s decision upholds bedrock environmental laws and restores crucial safeguards for some of the nation’s richest wetlands,” says Stu Gillespie, an environmental law attorney.
U.S. Senator Roger Wicker is “deeply frustrated” by the decision. He believes it “leave[s] the people of the South Mississippi Delta in harm’s way.”
He says shutting down the project “means that roads will continue to be impassable, deer and other wildlife and plant life will die, hypoxia will kill fish, small businesses will shut down, and residents will continue to be forced to leave their houses.”
Why? Weather and climate continue to threaten safety as they have since the fall of creation. Managing the needs of people, animals, and environments under those conditions takes great knowledge and wisdom.