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Hyde-Smith: Money, work moving ahead on backwater pumps project

Money is in place for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin meeting Environmental Protection Agency issues about the Steele Bayou Pump Project, U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said Friday.

“On Feb. 10, the Corps of Engineers rolled out how they planned to spend their 2020 budget,” said Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., who was in Vicksburg Friday for ceremonies dedicating the Mississippi Center for Innovation & Technology to the memory of former U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran.

“In that funding, we have money to purchase mitigated land where these pumps will go,” she said. “We have money to do all the environmental studies; what it will take to get there, so we are very confident that we will have some very good news that we’re in the first phase of getting those pumps.

“The reason we’re doing all the environmental studies is to satisfy all their (the EPA) questions and concerns, and they are being very cooperative.”

Hyde-Smith announced Feb. 10 that $7.5 million was added to the Corps’ $46.5 million budget to provide continued environmental documentation and the acquisition of mitigation necessary to advance revived efforts to complete the last remaining unconstructed feature of the project.”

The pump station is the final piece of the Yazoo Backwater Project that was authorized by Congress in 1941. The major piece of the project was the Yazoo Backwater Levee, completed in 1978. In 2007, the year before the EPA vetoed the project, its cost was estimated at $220 million. An updated estimate has not been determined.

The pumps are expected to move 14,000 cubic feet of water per second from the land or Delta side of the structure to the riverside if and when gates are closed due to high river stages.

Designs had it protecting about 630,000 acres in the South Delta from flooding. Flooding to residential and non-residential structures in the Delta would be reduced by 68 percent when the pump station is completed, according to a report from the Corps.

The EPA took into account multiple revisions in the plan in its veto but concluded the project would adversely affect area wetlands and wildlife.

The project took on new life during the 2019 flood when backwater area flooding reached a record level of 98.2 feet.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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