Army Corps agrees with Hyde-Smith on Enlarging Yazoo Backwater Levee

Published 4:18 pm Thursday, April 27, 2023

U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) on Wednesday gained a positive response from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) that funding should be provided to enlarge the authorized levee system that protects the Yazoo Backwater Area, a separate goal from the quest to construct a pumping station for the flood-prone south Mississippi Delta.

Hyde-Smith questioned Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, USACE Chief of Engineers and Commanding General, about the Yazoo Backwater levee during an Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee hearing.

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“From the beginning, the Corps has said the Yazoo Backwater levee would need to be raised at some point during the 50-year project life of the Recommended Plan,” Hyde-Smith said. “Unfortunately, the President’s fiscal year 2024 budget does not include any funding to enlarge the Yazoo Backwater levee, but $2 million could be used for that purpose, according to the Corps’ FY24 total capability estimate.”

“I have submitted a FY24 funding request to enlarge the Yazoo Backwater levee. Please explain to the subcommittee that the Yazoo Backwater levee is a separate, completed feature of the Yazoo Backwater Project, and said funds would indeed be used to enlarge the levee, which has nothing to do with construction of the pumps,” the Senator said.

Spellmon agreed the Yazoo Backwater levee needs to be enlarged and that this work is separate from the proposed pumps as part of the Mississippi River and Tributaries (MR&T) project.

“The levee enlargement is a separate feature of the system and we would use the money provided to begin the design of that levee enlargement,” Spellmon said. “Today, it’s just under six feet below its designed height and so this next enlargement would take it up another two feet consistent with the MR&T system. That’s the next planned levee raise for this system. So, yes, I agree.”

The comprehensive Yazoo Backwater Area Project is authorized to include levees, floodgates, drainage channels and pumping stations.

“Often when people hear ‘Yazoo Backwater Project,’ they immediately assume we’re talking about the unconstructed pumping station, which is a very important issue that must be resolved. But, the pumps are just one part of the comprehensive Yazoo Backwater Area Project,” Hyde-Smith said. “Until a pumping station is constructed and operational in the Yazoo Backwater Area, we have to ensure the structures we have in place are as strong as possible.”