Facts are important when discussing plan for pumps

Published 9:13 pm Monday, May 6, 2019

There are several organizations (MS Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, American Rivers, Audubon MS, etc.) that claim the Yazoo Backwater Pumps would adversely affect our forest and wetlands. These claims are based on numbers and information that are not factual.

I would like to provide you with facts supported by extensive studies by the EPA, Mississippi levee boards, United States Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, etc. All of this information is available to the general public, but is being overlooked and distorted by radical environmental groups. These radical groups provide no credible evidence that supports their claims.

Some claim the pumps will drain or destroy over 200,000 acres of wetlands.

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According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are only 189,600 acres of wetlands in the project area. If the pumps were in place, they would only be operational when the water elevation exceeds 87 feet above sea level. At 87 feet, there are over 200,000 acres underwater in the Backwater Area. The 30-year average stage is 75 feet and the average low stage is 67 feet.

So, how could 189,600 acres of wetlands be drained or destroyed when the 30-year average flow of the water at the same location is 12 feet lower and the average low flow is 20 feet lower than the pump’s operational elevation?

However, there are significant negative impacts to wetlands in the Backwater Project area due to the lack of a pump. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wetland database, included in the 189,600 acres of total wetlands inundated at 97 feet in the project area, 124,500 acres are designated “Temporary Flooded” wetlands. The National Wetlands Inventory of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service defines “Temporary Flooded” wetlands as an area where surface water is present for brief periods (from a few days to a few weeks) during the growing season.

The 124,500 acres have been inundated for more than two months, and much of this acreage is covered in water from one to 12 feet deep.

Rather than possibly being adversely affected by the presence of the pumps, this type of wetlands is being negatively impacted by recurrent backwater flooding events created by the absence of the pumps.

Another argument not supported by facts asserts the possibility of increased water levels downstream when the pumps are operating.

When the Steele Bayou gates are open, up to 48,000 cubic feet per second can pass through it by gravity flow. With the gates closed and the pumps in operation, a mere 14,000 cfs of excess water would be released over the Yazoo Backwater Levee at a time where flow in the Mississippi River would be approximately two million cfs. This means that water from the pump will be less than 1 percent of the water in the Mississippi River.

During this year’s backwater flood, the pumping station would have added less than 0.1 inch of water to the Mississippi River at Vicksburg. This small level of increase would go undetected.

It is absurd to claim fear of downstream flooding when the pumps are in operation while merely the open gates can and do allow more water into the Mississippi River system than the pumps ever will.


Clay Adcock

Holly Bluff resident