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Yazoo Backwater Pumps: Upholding Law, Science & Public Participation

Marshland in the Mississippi River Delta.

Marshland in the Mississippi River Delta.

K. L. McKee / USGS

What’s at Stake

Tens of thousands of acres of ecologically rich wetlands in Mississippi’s South Delta that support over 450 species of fish and wildlife, including several federally endangered species, such as the pondberry.

Downstream communities would bear increased risk of floods.


The Yazoo Pumps would drain tens of thousands of acres of ecologically rich wetlands in Mississippi’s South Delta. The George W. Bush Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency stopped the destructive project by issuing a Clean Water Act veto in 2008, citing unacceptable damage to some of the nation’s richest wetland and water resources.

However, in 2020, the Army Corps of Engineers revived the massive drainage project in a calculated push that culminated in official approval of the project in the final days of the Trump administration. The unprecedented effort included illegally revoking EPA’s 2008 long-standing veto and circumventing bedrock environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.

More than 55,000 citizens, scientists, and public interest groups objected to the Corps’ incomplete and inadequate analysis of the project, submitting extensive comments demonstrating that the Corps ignored the scientific data and law.

Instead of the ineffective, antiquated pumps, the conservation groups are calling for commonsense solutions to reduce flood risk using natural infrastructure and non-structural approaches that can help protect people’s lives, property and livelihoods. These available measures include elevating homes and roads, and paying farmers to restore cropland back to wetlands.

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