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Ann Dahl responds to environmental groups



Ann Dahl

This is an editorial piece by Ann Dahl in response to comments made to VDN by environmental groups:

As I was quoted in the Vicksburg Daily News article, yesterday’s Yazoo Backwater Project Proposals presentation was a great day for the Finish the Pumps grassroots campaign, as well as a needed injection of hope for the battered south Delta. In my opinion, the Environmental Protection Agency has taken the courageous step to admit that they had it wrong for the last 15 years. They are finally cutting through the politics and outside pressure and as they stated yesterday are now “following the science” and ensuring they are complying with the Clean Water Act and any other policies and procedures. Hearing this, my mind immediately thinks about the last opponents of the project left standing, the national environmental groups, and when they will open their minds to the science and stop trying to line their coffers at the expense of the people, wildlife and environment of the south Mississippi Delta. I was quite eager to read their comments as given to the Vicksburg Daily News but not shared publicly at yesterday’s meeting.

Louie Miller with Sierra Club Mississippi began by stressing “It’s still an Ag drainage project, it’s not a flood control project. I think that is important to recognize because it’s been sold as a flood control project.” Wow, did we go to the same meeting is all I can ask? Did you sleep through the part where the pumps would not be turned on during the growing season until the backwater reaches 90’? In plain English, the current proposal is to allow 12,952 acres of prime farmland to flood before ever turning on the pumps. So how can they say that this is an Ag drainage project? Many of the area farmers rightly believe that the activation point should have been left at 87’, the one-year flood plain, which leads us to Jill Mastrototaro’s of Audubon Mississippi comments. She states “If you’ve got major pump proponents that are raising really valid questions about well we need another 10-13 inches of water pulled off us beside the 25,000 cubic feet per second pump that’s 78% larger than what’s been put on the table in the past. You can’t square that.” The previous pump activation level of 87’ left 1,800 acres of farmland flooded. So the embattled farmers of the south Delta are now being asked to give up flood protection on another 11,152 acres of prime farmland and you still call that an ag drainage project. That is really something you just can’t square.

Jill Mastrototaro went on to state “There might be twenty-four people, twenty-four primary residences now that were impacted. There were 687, 78, structures from the 2019 flood. There was no talk about who was going to be flood free from this project.” Let me help you out with the data and the math since you seem to be struggling. There were 644 homes affected by the 2019 flood. Twenty-four of those homes have been identified as below the 90’ elevation and therefore receiving no flood protection from the 90’ activation of the proposed pumps. To answer your question using third-grade math skills, the proposed plan will protect 620 homes from backwater flooding. The 24 affected homes identified will be offered other assistance, both structural and non-structural. That is quite a win for the area residents!

Both Miller and Mastrototaro both danced around the demographics of the area residents that would benefit and/or suffer from this proposal like they couldn’t decide which side of the Environmental Justice argument they are on. They talked about the proposal being “very thin on the people benefits, particularly the black community members that have endured a lot of hardship and those communities along old Washington Avenue (in Vicksburg) down there that suffered and continue to suffer flooding.” They purport that the proposed plan “will pump 25,000 cubic feet a second of water downstream to a Yazoo River already at flood stage and to North Vicksburg Communities that are predominantly black that already frequently flood. And we’re just moving the problem on to somebody else. And that’s unacceptable, especially when you’re talking about environmental justice.” Once again they are dismissing the proven science that the water pumped out of the Yazoo Basin at 14,000 cfs would equalize out to the thickness of a thin dime by the time it reaches the communities of north Vicksburg. So I guess the new plan would be pumping out the thickness of two dimes. Whether the water is pumped out a little at a time or we wait until the Mississippi River drops enough to open the Steele Bayou gates and let it drain out at up to 48,000 cfs, the water will be drained downstream the same as it has been done since 1978. The amount of water is the same either way. That argument just doesn’t pass the common sense test.

Miller went on to state that he didn’t hear a word about downstream flooding modeling or any of these other things that he thinks are critical. He asked, “So, where’s the modeling, the support  what that is going to do, and not do to downstream.” Funny thing he should ask that question. While it was not talked about at yesterday’s meeting, the Corp of Engineers has completed a model of the Yazoo Backwater Area so that they can test different pump sizes, activation set points, precipitation events and downstream effects. I am sure he could wrangle an invitation to see it for himself – that is if he were truly interested. While talking about modeling, Miller referenced the “backwater levee, that it almost got over the top in 2019” being discussed during the US Senate Appropriations Committee meeting last week. This is another event the environmentalist’s like to use to scare residents regarding the pump project. Once again they continue to confuse their facts since this event actually occurred in 2011 and not 2019. Instead of scaring people into believing that the levee could fail during pump operation, what this event actually proved is that the levees will hold.

And my final thoughts on something that affects me directly is that Miller is out there to mislead everyone. He stated, “I think it’s important to understand that there are much cheaper and affordable ways to do things, such as what the Brunswick levee was, less than $76,000 going to protect 216 homes in the Eagle Lake area.” He threw this comment out to lead readers to believe that we could build a levee for $76,000 and protect 216 homes. That could not be further from the truth. The Brunswick Levee is a dirt levee that was built in 1880 to protect approximately 4,000 acres of farmland. After the residential development of Eagle Lake in the last 50 to 60 years, it now also serves to protect approximately 216 homes. Mine is one of those homes. The $75,000 allocated by the State of Mississippi last year is to repair the existing levee and install manually operated gates in order to prevent the potentially catastrophic failure of the levee. Don’t believe for a minute that during today’s times you can buy flood protection for 216 homes for $76K!

The environmentalist’s comments are rich fodder for rebuttal but I will stop there. Their arguments are well worn and I have already blogged about them to the point of boredom. I will close by repeating my question. If the EPA can reverse course and follow the science, why can’t you?

Ann Dahl


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