Flood recovery: Don’t lose sight of bigger mission

Published 6:14 pm Thursday, August 22, 2019

As the cleanup from the historic Yazoo Backwater Area flood gets into full swing, it would be easy for us to get lost in the mud, the muck and the debris, and lose sight of the fight that remains in front of us.

Wednesday, community leaders, experts and elected officials went before the Mississippi River Commission and urged some of the top leadership in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue making the completion of the backwater flood control plan and placement of the pumps a top priority.

Their testimony, their stories and their encouragement is just one part of the process that hopefully will one day lead to the completion of a project more than seven decades in the making and ensure future generations of residents, farmers and businesses are better protected for the next historic flood.

It is also important that, in addition to the constant pressure and encouragement of Corps officials, we must not lose sight of the legislative work in Washington that can lead to the completion of the project.

In late July, just before the long August congressional recess, U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker introduced the Flood Reduction, Wildlife Habitat, and Water Quality Improvement Act of 2019.

The Flood Reduction, Wildlife Habitat, and Water Quality Improvement Act would reform section 404 of the Clean Water Act to prohibit the EPA from vetoing a Corps of Engineers flood control project specifically authorized by Congress.

If enacted, the legislation would also immediately nullify any prior veto determinations made by the EPA that resulted in severe flooding and damage to life and property.

A 2008 EPA veto halted work by the Corps of Engineers to construct the Yazoo Backwater Pump Project, which Congress authorized in 1941. The project is the last remaining unconstructed feature of a 78-year flood control effort in the Lower Mississippi Valley.

Now, we will have to wait as that legislation works its way through committee hearings, markups, revisions and other hearings before a vote can be held.

In the meantime, letters in support of the legislation and continued pressure on the EPA to overturn its veto must be applied.

We cannot get lost in the cleanup and recovery to forget the long-term work ahead.

The floodwaters are gone, but the impact and devastation are not, and neither is our responsibility as citizens to make sure our leaders do what is right by us, our neighbors and our community.