Firm to meet with Delta residents about the 2019 flood

Published 2:34 pm Thursday, March 5, 2020

Lawyers from two firms plan to meet with Yazoo Backwater Area residents to discuss the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to recover damages from the 2019 flood.

Representatives from the Deakle-Johnson Law Firm of Hattiesburg and Pendley, Baudin & Coffin of Plaquemine, La., will meet with residents Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Vicksburg Convention Center, 1600 Dr. Briggs Hopson Blvd.

Russell Johnson, one of the attorneys involved in the suit, said the lawyers will discuss several issues during the meeting, “Obviously the damage and limitation of use of property.”

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“What we’re looking for is people who planted crops that got flooded out and they couldn’t harvest; they lost that,” lawyer Patrick Pendley said. “Another category is people who had farmland and couldn’t plant at all because it was flooded. People who have timber interests and the people who have mineral interests.”

Also, people who lost property or had damage to their home or camp are invited.

“We want to see how many folks show up,” Johnson said. “We’ve gotten a good bit of feedback so far, just putting a few feelers out there; we are still in the early process.”

Johnson and Pendley said they have received calls from residents in the backwater asking about the meeting.

“We hope to get a better impression Saturday,” Johnson said.

Flooding in the Yazoo Backwater area covered land for 219 days and reached a record level of 98.2 feet during the 2019 flood, covering 548,000 total acres of land including 231,000 acres of cropland.

The flooding inundated the Eagle Lake community, forcing many residents there to leave their homes and evacuate to other areas. The water also overtopped Mississippi 465, Mississippi 16 and Mississippi 1.

Many of the backwater residents and local officials blamed the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to veto the construction of the Steele Bayou pump station, which was to be built on the Steele Bayou Control Structure to help protect the South Delta from flooding.

Russell said the lawyers are considering including the EPA in the lawsuit.

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.

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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