On April 17 we loaded fourteen of us into a van and a car and drove up to Vicksburg for a hearing on the Yazoo Pumps project. Vicksburg is a 3.5 hour drive from New Orleans, so we were prepared for a long day, though I don’t think any of us expected it to be as long as it was.The public hearing started at 7 PM at the Vicksburg Convention Center. As our group sat down, one of our members was tapped on the shoulder by a pumps proponent and told that she wasn’t welcome at the hearing and should leave! It’s that kind of attempted intimidation by proponents that has kept more locals from speaking out against this project.The EPA kicked off the hearing with a brief presentation on why the Yazoo Pumps project is so damaging, followed by a representative from the Corps who tried to convince everyone the project is sound by using some fuzzy logic. Then it was on to the elected officials.Governor Haley Barbour’s representative made a comment that people from outside of the Delta region should not be influencing the process because locals wanted the project built. However, if the project were built, those of us living downstream would have to deal with the impacts of losing wetlands that store flood waters and filter water pollutants such as fertilizer and pesticides. It’s also troubling to hear that Mr. Barbour believes that outsiders should not have a say on a in this project given that Mississippi politicians lobbied to get the entire cost of the project paid for by federal taxpayers.The best part of the hearing was the great diversity of people opposed to the pumps. By my count, 34 people testified in opposition to the pumps, including students, scientists, social justice groups, representatives from hunting and fishing groups, environmental groups, land trusts, and many local citizens who understand that what the Delta needs is better education, infrastructure, and health care, not a pork project that will only benefit a small number of landowners. Attending the hearing was well worth the long drive we had back home, arriving in New Orleans well after 3 am.The Yazoo Pumps is one of the most wasteful, environmentally destructive taxpayer-funded projects ever conceived. Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt called it the “most cockamamie” project that he had ever heard of. A retired head of the EPA wetlands division recently said, “over my 24 years at the EPA, I never reviewed a project that would do more damage than the Yazoo Pumps project.” There are various estimates of how many acres of wetlands the project would drain which range from 67,000 to over 200,000. No matter which estimate you believe, the destruction would be massive.Now it’s your turn. If you haven’t sent a comment to the EPA in support of a veto, please do so now by clicking here. Help us achieve what could be one of the most pro-environment decisions to come out of EPA in a long time.Dump the Pumps!Jeff Grimes is Assistant Director of Water Resources for the Gulf Restoration Network

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