Corps pumps opponents speak out with e-mails|[01/30/08]
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 30, 2008
A tally shows those opposed to the pump station offered as the final piece of the Yazoo Backwater Project pooled their resources via the Internet to stand united against the $220 million project.
Project managers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said “roughly” 22,400 comments were submitted during the public comment period which ended last week on Jan. 22.
Of those, 22,326 were e-mails, most of which had multiple senders, said Frank Worley, acting director of public information for the Corps’ Vicksburg District, which is the design agency for the pumps.
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“Virtually all were sent either through an e-mail program from various environmental groups or as part of an organized letter-writing campaign from various environmental groups including American Rivers, Sierra Club and others,” Worley said.
All but 30 e-mails were from organizations outside the Mississippi Delta and most were either written as form letters or sent from servers sponsored by high-profile opposition, project managers said.
Nineteen post cards arrived to Vicksburg District offices in support of the pumps, as well as 23 letters from state and local officials. That total includes Gov. Haley Barbour, state senators, county supervisors from the Delta region. Letters of support also came from businesses and local citizens. Eleven resolutions were passed by county boards of supervisors and the state boards that maintain the Mississippi River levee system. Thirteen letters came in opposing the project.
Meanwhile, the federal Environmental Protection Agency plans to hold public meetings before the Corps’ final environmental impact statement is handed over to top engineers.
One of the 13 opposition letters came from the EPA, which panned the plan for capping off the decades-old flood protection project and has perhaps the greatest potential to doom the work proposed near where Mississippi 465 crosses Steele Bayou north of Vicksburg.
“It appears … that no substantive modifications have been made to the structural components of the Recommended Plan since November 2000 and that the nature and extent of anticipated environmental impacts continue to be highly significant,” wrote Lawrence Starfield, EPA’s deputy administrator for the Southeast.
Benjamin Grumbles, the EPA’s assistant administrator for water, said in a statement the project as proposed would affect 67,000 acres of “some of the richest wetland and aquatic resources in the nation” and the Corps has not exhausted other methods for flood control in the Delta.
The Yazoo Backwater Project was authorized by Congress in 1941. It has undergone multiple revisions. The goal is to remove rainwater from the lower Delta that becomes impounded inside levees when the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers are at higher stages.
While current project design calls for a pump station that the Corps has said will reduce flooding by more than 4 feet and is environmentally friendly because of plans to reforest more than 50,000 acres, environmental and wildlife preservation groups have criticized the project’s cost as wasteful and harmful to wetlands.