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USACE approves funding to enlarge Yazoo Backwater levee system



delta flooding
The Backwater flood, July 13, 2019.
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During a hearing of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, US Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith asked USACE Chief of Engineers and Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, about enlarging the Yazoo Backwater levee system and received a positive response.

“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.

Lt. Gen. Spellmon concurred that the Yazoo Backwater levee should be expanded and emphasized that this task is independent of the proposed pumps under the Mississippi River and Tributaries 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.”

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