Hyde-Smith challenges EPA Administrator on Yazoo Backwater Pumps

Published 2:37 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) on Wednesday said a “quick resolution” is needed to revive the Yazoo Backwater Area flood control pump project that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stopped last November.

Hyde-Smith directed all her attention to the Yazoo Backwater dilemma during EPA Administrator Michael Regan’s appearance at a Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday.

“If you look at the facts and the science, you can get it done,” Hyde-Smith said to Regan after he said the Yazoo Backwater project is a priority for EPA and other federal agencies.

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“It’s been a long time coming and I just hope that this is a quick resolution to this and that it’s not two or three years more down the road because these people in the Mississippi Delta need your help,” the Senator added. “It did come to a screeching halt after it was congressionally approved. So I think you have a lot of explaining to do. I think you’ve got a lot of corrections to make.”

Asked by Hyde-Smith whether pumps remain an option, Regan testified, “There are no options off the table, to your question. Green and gray, hard and natural infrastructure solutions are on the table.”

After Hyde-Smith detailed flaws in the EPA interpretation of the Clean Water Act to halt the pump projects, Regan did not explain how the EPA determined a pump plan vetoed in 2008 is the same as the Corps’ 2020 new Proposed Plan.

The administrator instead acknowledged Yazoo Backwater flooding is a major problem and predicted that agencies participating in an interagency council (EPA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and White House Council on Environmental Quality) would soon “agree on what we believe to be a legally-sound and engineering-durable solution to the Yazoo pump issue.”

“I want to button this thing up, probably not as much as you do, but I want to button this thing up because it’s the right thing to do. And I believe we can get it done,” Regan said to Hyde-Smith.

Regan’s testimony on the possibility of fulfilling the 1941 authorization of a Yazoo Backwater Area pumping station, fits with Army Corps testimony in April that “pumps are still in the mix.”

At that hearing, Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, expressed strong confidence in the peer-reviewed science and documentation, including an environmental justice assessment, behind the Corps’ 2020 plan.