Conservation Groups Decry Biden Administration’s Effort to Revive Yazoo Pumps 

Preliminary proposal puts vetoed project back on the table

Jill Mastrototaro | Audubon Delta | (504) 481-3659 |
Louie Miller | Mississippi Sierra Club | (601) 624-3503 | 
Andrew Whitehurst | Healthy Gulf | (601) 954-7236 | 
Olivia Dorothy | American Rivers | (217) 390-3658 |
Stu Gillespie | Earthjustice | (303) 996-9616 |

JACKSON, Miss. – Yesterday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced it would restart its planning for a massive agricultural drainage project in the Mississippi Delta known as the Yazoo Pumps.  

The Corps’ announcement flies in the face of the Biden Administration’s decision to put a stop to the Trump  Administration’s Yazoo Pumps plan. On November 17, 2021, the Biden Administration properly determined that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2008 Clean Water Act veto applied to the Trump plan. However, in January of this year—and without explanation—the Corps and EPA launched a new and aggressive  5-month process “to identify appropriate flood risk reduction solution(s) in the Yazoo Backwater Area” that must include consideration of one or more backwater pumps [See Memorandum Outlining the Agreement].  The memorandum also directs the agencies to consider non-structural and nature-based solutions. 

The Pumps are an agricultural drainage project that will not protect communities from flooding. As the Corps has acknowledged, 80 percent of the Pumps’ benefits come from draining wetlands to let industrial agriculture intensify farming on lands that have always flooded. George W. Bush’s EPA stopped the project in 2008  precisely because the Pumps would drain and damage tens of thousands of acres of nationally significant  wetlands—1 of just 14 vetoes ever issued by EPA. 

“We are stunned that the Biden Administration would choose to advance a plan that abdicates its conservation, climate, and environmental justice commitments by willfully putting the vetoed Yazoo Pumps  back on the table,” said Jill Mastrototaro, Mississippi Policy Director for Audubon Delta. 

“Restoring EPA’s 2008 veto of the project served as the Administration’s transformational moment to prioritize the deployment of federal programs and resources that could deliver prompt, effective flood relief to vulnerable backwater communities while protecting the region’s globally important wetlands,” said Andrew  Whitehurst, Water Program Director Healthy Gulf. 

“Any course of action that includes resurrecting the ineffective, destructive Pumps not only rings hollow, it signals that political pressures may have trumped science, law, and this Administration’s stated priorities,” said  Louie Miller State Director for the Mississippi Chapter of the Sierra Club. 

“Delivering effective, environmentally sustainable flood solutions such as FEMA hazard mitigation and USDA conservation programs to those underserved communities who need help the most has always been—and  should remain—the key to address the region’s systemic inequities and environmental injustices,” concluded Jill Mastrototaro, Mississippi Policy Director for Audubon Delta. “We urge the Administration to quickly implement the acknowledged suite of readily available nature-based and non-structural flood solutions and abandon the Pumps once and for all.” 

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