The Vicksburg Post launches ‘Voices of the Floods’ podcast, companion to ‘Faces of the Floods’ series

Published 4:00 am Saturday, October 15, 2022

The Vicksburg Post has launched the “Voices of the Floods” podcast, a companion to its “Faces of the Floods” series.

“Voices of the Floods,” which publishes once a week, is available on Anchor, Spotify and Google Podcasts. The show provides an opportunity for an in-depth discussion with “Faces of the Floods” story subjects — South Mississippi Delta residents who have endured catastrophic floods in the area over the last century.

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The Post’s managing editor, Anna Guizerix, said the series and podcast were inspired by the stories shared during the Aug. 24 listening session hosted by Sen. Roger Wicker and Rep. Bennie Thompson, who invited a delegation from the Biden Administration to South Delta High School in Rolling Fork.

“Listening to more than two hours of testimonials from those impacted by the floods, and seeing the way the chronic flooding in the Yazoo Backwater area affects them mentally, physically, socially and financially, something grabbed me that night and wouldn’t turn me loose,” Guizerix said. “The sole mission of ‘Faces of the Floods,’ and now ‘Voices,’ is to give these people space to tell their stories and to share their stories with all who will listen.”

The “Faces of the Floods” series is ongoing, with seven weeks’ worth of stories, video content and audio — and counting. Stories and videos are published each Saturday in The Post’s weekend edition and online at vicksburgpost.com.

Each component of the coverage of this issue is designed to appeal to readers in the way they best process information, Guizerix said.

“As a community newspaper, it is our responsibility to document history as it’s happening,” she said. “Decades from now, people might not remember how many cubic feet of water the proposed Yazoo Pumps Project is supposed to pump out, even though it’s pertinent information. What will stick with them, what sticks with me, is the words of those forced to live through such unimaginable circumstances.”

Those featured in “Faces of the Floods” stories so far have shared about alligators coming to their back doors, having to wade through muddy water to get to and from school, fleeing their homes in the night and their loved ones dying from the stress of the rising water.

To listen to “Voices of the Floods,” type the podcast name in the search bar or visit Spotify, Anchor or Google Podcasts.

About the Yazoo Backwater Pumps

The Yazoo Backwater area project is located in the lower portion of the Yazoo River within the state of Mississippi. In nine of the last 11 years, the Yazoo Backwater Area has experienced significant flooding.

This flooding primarily occurs in the spring when the two outlets, Steele Bayou and Little Sunflower structures, which control the 4,093 square mile drainage area, are closed due to high Mississippi River stages. The Yazoo Backwater area is protected by levees on all sides. When the structures are closed, rainfall within the basin becomes trapped and rises until the Mississippi River stages recede sufficiently to allow these structures to be once again opened.

The Yazoo Backwater Project was authorized by the 1941 Flood Control Act as part of the Mississippi River and Tributaries System (MR&T). The MR&T protects people, infrastructure, commerce, agriculture, and energy.

The Yazoo Backwater project has four major features: The Yazoo Backwater area levee, connecting channel, associated water control structures and the Yazoo Backwater area pumping station. All but the pumping station were completed by 1978. Construction of the pumping station is the last remaining piece of the puzzle.

In 2019, the Yazoo Backwater area experienced the greatest flood since 1973. Approximately 430,000 acres were inundated with floodwater damaging homes, roads, farms, businesses, churches, wildlife management areas, agricultural land, and forested areas for over six months. Additionally, two deaths were attributed to the flooding. The Yazoo Backwater area received attention from Congressional members, and interagency meetings were held once again. The EPA directed the Vicksburg District to provide updated changes and revisions to the previous report that was completed in 2008. The updated report was completed and released in December 2019, but no comments were received from the EPA.

In 2020, the Yazoo Backwater area once again experienced significant flooding inundating over 370,000 acres. On November 30, 2020, the EPA formally stated full support of the project to reduce flood damages and that the proposed project was not subject to EPA’s 2008 Final Determination veto.

On Nov. 17, 2021, the EPA and the Biden Administration moved to reject the 2020 Proposed Plan for the Yazoo Pumps Project on the grounds that the project is prohibited by EPA’s 2008 Clean Water Act Section 404(c) Final Determination.

While the saga is marked by the most catastrophic flood years: 1927, 1973, 2011, 2019 and 2020, there is more to the issue. 

For example, 2019 and 2020 represent back-to-back years of the most egregious flooding events that took the homes of nearly 700 people in the Backwater area. Approximately 94 percent of those homes were minority occupied and many of them remain uninhabitable today; 62 percent of the total population in the South Delta are people of color and 28 percent of the total population lives below the poverty line.

Most recently, a new proposal for the Yazoo Backwater Pumps was presented during the Mississippi River Commission’s low-water tour in Vicksburg. Additionally, on Sept. 9, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District and Engineer Research and Development Center announced its physical model of the proposed pumps had been completed.

If you or someone you know is a South Delta resident impacted by the Yazoo Backwater Floods, email The Vicksburg Post’s Managing Editor at anna.guizerix@vicksburgpost.com to share your story.