In September 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) vetoed the Yazoo Pumps Project, an antiquated Army Corps of Engineers project that would have destroyed over 200,000 acres of wetlands in Mississippi, including habitat for the endangered Louisiana black bear. This victory was the culmination of years of organizing and advocacy from many different organizations and only the 12th time that the EPA has ever exercised its authority to veto a wetlands destruction permit.
Dump the Pumps – a History
The Yazoo Pumps was a 66 year old Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) project that would have resulted in the world’s largest water pumping plant in one of the most sparsely populated regions of the country. The project was designed to drain wetlands for agricultural intensification—with taxpayers being left to foot the $220 million bill.
The damage and destruction that the Yazoo Pumps would have caused is truly astounding. In 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that the Yazoo Pumps would drain and damage over 200,000 acres of ecologically significant wetlands. Such an area is equal to the size of all 5 boroughs of New York City. The pumps would have even harmed wetlands owned by the public, including parts of the Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, the Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge and the Delta National Forest.
In a letter in The New York Times, the former Director of the EPA Wetlands Division wrote, “Over the course of my 24 years at the Environmental Protection Agency, I never reviewed a proposal that would do more damage to the environment than the Yazoo Pumps project in the Mississippi Delta.”
Because of the major impact the Yazoo Pumps would have had on the Gulf’s resources, Gulf Restoration Network worked extensively to halt this destructive project. We spent years watchdogging the Yazoo Pumps to ensure that the Corps did not mislead the public regarding the pumps true environmental impacts. GRN members attended numerous public hearings and submitted thousands of comments to government agencies.
Ultimately, these efforts paid off. In February 2008, the EPA announced its plans to veto the Yazoo Pumps, exercising its authority to protect the nation’s water resources from the massive destruction. The veto was finalized later that year. The EPA had previously only vetoed 11 other projects in its entire history. The Yazoo Pumps alone would have caused more damage than those 11 other projects combined.
We’re proud of this huge victory to protect the Gulf and its wetlands, and appreciate all of the hard work from our members and allies that helped secure this win.