Gloves are off in fight for pumps

By BRYAN DAVIS EDITOR,

The Environmental Protection Agency may still hold the veto on the Yazoo Backwater Pumps, but proponents of the decades-old project are by far winning the public relations war.

And the messaging is getting more pointed by the day.

As word of this man-made catastrophe continues to seep from the few Mississippi counties currently underwater, the credibility of the environmental groups and government agencies standing in the way of the pumps is leaking faster than the Mississippi River can dump into the Gulf of Mexico.

Mississippi Levee Board Chief Engineer Peter Nimrod spoke to the Indianola Rotary Club this week – the second speaker in as many meetings focusing on the 2019 backwater flood – and the frustration was evident in his program that included several words still not allowed on network television. 

Referencing two individuals who drowned in the south delta region earlier this year after they attempted to turn their car around in the floodwaters, Nimrod said, “Two people drowned in 2019 because of the EPA.”

Just this past weekend, the Mississippi Wildlife Extravaganza, along with the vendors who showed, took major financial hits due to a boycott led by pumps advocates who were at first denied a booth aimed at educating the public on the unfinished project.

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries & Parks was among many high-profile vendors that backed out.

The #finishthepumps hashtag appears online and on billboards all over the state, and while thousands are still not entirely educated on the subject of the pumps, those that get a double dose of information and devastating pictures like the Indianola Rotary Club are left speechless as to how such a common sense project has sat for decades unfinished at the hands of both Democrats and Republicans.

The original veto, in fact, was handed down under the George W. Bush administration, and by the time the EPA was sued, the Barack Obama administration was well underway in establishing even stricter environmental rules.

Nimrod said the reasoning behind the veto came down to perceived negative effects on the wetlands of the south Delta region.

To compromise on the environmental impact, Nimrod said the final plan for the pumps included taking 55,000 acres of cropland and designating them for reforestation, something he said would yield a near 20 percent positive environmental impact, opposed to a mere 1.6 percent negative impact on wetlands had the project gone unchecked.

Nimrod concedes that even with the pumps, hundreds of thousands of acres, including about 109,000 currently used for ag production, would still be underwater in extreme flooding like we saw in 2019, but he contends that no houses or highways would have been flooded had the water been pumped out properly.

At the time of the veto in 2008, the project was priced at a little over $200 million. Over the course of the next decade, damages from not having the pumps in place topped out at $370 million, according to Nimrod, a hefty net loss for the state and property owners in the south Delta region.

Nimrod also said that Congressman Bennie Thompson, who is notorious for siding with the left on most major policy issues, has become an ally in the fight to finish the pumps, another point that does not bode well for anti pumps individuals and groups.

Thompson has been to numerous community meetings, and he is working with the rest of the Mississippi congressional delegation to raise awareness of the south Delta plight in Washington D.C.

One statistic that Nimrod touted was that from 1978-2018, the Mississippi River spent at total of 44 days above 95 feet.

That number stood at over 100 days in 2019 alone. 

Extreme flooding events over the past 12 years have surpassed the previous three decades, he said.

Most of the environmental groups who have opposed the pumps on ecological grounds would probably tell us that man-made climate change is accelerating the number of extreme weather events seen in recent years around the globe.

If they truly believe that, it would make sense for them to revisit a policy decision that was based on 27 years of hard data, coupled with 12 years of computer modeling that did not take into effect the abnormal flooding events that might have been brought on by the very climate change they claim to be fighting.

We can confirm there are at least two man-made disasters regarding the pumps.

The first is the decision not to finish the project.

The second is the public relations nightmare that, like the south Delta flooding, will only get worse the longer the pumps aren’t finished.

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