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Audio of MWF’s Lemmons laughing at the pump project has enraged flood victims



An audio recording of outgoing MWF Executive Director Lindsey Lemmons has surfaced, and it has enraged Backwater Flood victims.

The National Wildlife Federation Outdoors podcast featured Lemmons its June 26, 2018, episode with Drew YoungeDyke for Conservation Country. On the podcast, Lemmons and YoungeDyke discuss conservation issues in Mississippi. The topic of the pumps in the South Delta comes up about four minutes in.

“The Yazoo River basin has a water control structure at the very southern outlet of the basin,” Lemmons said. “At that … structure they want to install pumps that would maintain the water level at a certain level that would, um, potentially impair the wetlands ecology of, um, over 200,000 acres of wetlands in the basin.”

Lemmons goes on to explain the project began in the ’40s saying, “This is an old project that, um, like I said, in 2008 (the Environmental Protection Agency) vetoed the project. It has been shown to not be cost-benefit … It is estimated it would take 3,000 years for the project to pay for itself.”

Lemmons offered no supporting information on that analysis during the podcast.

YoungeDyke chimed in to repeat and emphasize Lemmons’ points and asked her to explain why those who want the pumps would think they were a good idea. Lemmons and the host can be heard chuckling at this point, presumably at the absurdity of the pump project, as Lemmons presented it.

“There’s some landowners,” Lemmons said as she began to explain. “…This river basin does host 86,000 acres of ag – agricultural land – and there are some flooding issues in the river basin. There has been some pressure over the years to help protect those ag lands.”

“To offset the cost (of the pumps) they have proposed to do 66,000 acres of mitigation. Well, 66,000 acres of mitigation means they would take, they would take the 86,000 acres, existing ag acres, convert 66,000 acres, which is over 75 percent, to wetlands. And then they would install the pumps which would keep water off of the wetlands…”

The host, talking over Lemmons, interjected: “The ag lands they no longer have?”

“Yes,” Lemmons said.

She then comes back louder, saying: “So, it’s …. they sweetened the deal with mitigation.”

YoungeDyke can be heard openly laughing at the concept.

“… however it’s still, … cost-benefit still, it’s not passing the common sense test,” Lemmons said, at which  YoungeDyke said, with emphasis, “Oh, it has flunked the common sense test so bad. Wow!”

Lemmons, laughing, said, “Yeah.” Both seem to agree that the pumps are a bad idea and that they have been a bad idea for 80 years.

In talking about mitigation, Lemmons was referring to an earmark left out of the, 2,235-page, $1.8 trillion 2018 Omnibus Senate Appropriations Bill, which would have provided $210 million for the pumps, authorizing their immediate construction and exempting the project from executive review and legal challenges. It apparently included purchasing land that often floods. The provision was backed by the politically powerful Delta Council, an economic development organization for the Mississippi Delta. Mississippi’s senior U.S. Senator at the time, Thad Cochran, headed the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

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For flood victims, many of whom are just now seeing their land emerge from floodwaters for the first time in more than five months, hearing the Executive Director of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation openly mocking the pumps is not sitting well. Many flood victims have supported and been a part of the MWF for years; however, they believe the pumps would have mitigated this flood.

Some of them came to social media to express their outrage.

Most bunch of lies I ever heard!! In my life,” Joann Parker said in a Facebook post. “Lindsey Lemmon’s wildlife federations. My Lord!! I pray to the good Lord y’all go Belly up.”

“She said 3,000 years! What a crock!” wrote Diane Klaus. “The damage this year alone would probably pay for them.”

Melissa Lum Lyons chimed in with “Bye Felicia!!!!”

Most statements included coarse language and harsh criticism.

The MWF has come under scrutiny this week as flood victim and farmer Victoria Darden was denied a booth at its annual Wildlife Extravaganza fundraiser in Jackson. Darden wanted to spread the word to the usually well-attended event about the flood, its impact and solutions. Darden said she was led to believe she would have booth space and began to plan flyers and organize volunteers to man the booth. A few days later, after Darden said why she wanted it, Lemmons told her space was no longer available. That story, which the Vicksburg Daily News broke, was shared widely and caused more than 30 vendors to pull their support from the MWF event in support of Darden and other the victims of the Great Backwater Flood of 2019, and of finishing the pumps.

Floodfest 2019 has offered booth space for the vendors who have pulled out of the event. Many locals are urging friends and neighbors to support the vendors, who reportedly will lose deposits and payments they made to exhibit.

Local restaurateur Charles Toney has been very vocal about supporting the vendors who have supported the pumps instead of the MWF. “LET’S ALL SUPPORT THE COMPANIES BECAUSE THEY ARE SUPPORTING US #Finishthepumps,” Toney posted on social media, and then listed the businesses that have pulled out of the MWF event this coming weekend.

Backwater flood area on June 1, 2019

A call to Jeanne Jones, board president of the MWF, was not returned by the time we published this story. Earlier in the week, Lindsey Lemmons refused to comment and referred us to Jones.


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