Over 5,000 sign petition supporting Yazoo backwater pumps

By JAMIE PATTERSON,

Over 5,000 signatures were provided to lawmakers last week in support of the Yazoo backwater pump station that was halted in 2008.

With the Steele Bayou flood gates being opened last week, the flood waters have descended but only slightly as residents continue to battle what many are calling “a man-made disaster.”

Clay Adcock, a Holly Bluff resident and farmer, has been instrumental in organizing a movement to overrule the veto placed by the Environmental Protection Agency almost a decade ago. That EPA veto halted the competition of a Congress-approved plan to construct a pumping station to prevent backwater flooding.

“It was 19 days ago when we started a petition,” Adcock said, during a meeting with delegation last Friday in Valley Park. “We now have over 5,000 signatures that show the effect (lawmakers) are making is backed by the citizens of the South Delta.”

Congressman Bennie Thompson and Senators Cindy Hyde-Smith and Roger Wicker have voiced their support in lifting the EPA veto and constructing the pumping station. They have also met with EPA administrators to find a compromise in constructing the station, which is predicted to take four years to complete.

“Gov. Phil Bryant has told us that he is going to get us some help,” Adcock said. “Our governor is fully involved and engaged in helping us. Senator Wicker has always been there and supported us in prior years. And Senator Hyde-Smith has publicly verified that the EPA was going to review the 2008 veto. She has communicated what she has seen first-hand and experienced. Her empathy for what is happening in our area speaks to me.”

Adcock said Thompson has also been supportive in his efforts to request funding from the Committee on Appropriations.

“It’s one thing to say you are supportive, but it means something else when you put it in writing,” Adcock said. “It shows you support it. (Our elected officials) are our voice, and they have been a strong voice. They have been an ally to us in this disaster.”

Thompson submitted a letter to the Committee of Appropriations to draw attention to the flooding impacting the area.

“As you begin to deliberate the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations, I am requesting that the following project receive priority consideration for funding,” Thompson said. “The ongoing presumption has been that backwater pumps would be the solution to this problem of flooding that has dated back to the 1940s.”

Thompson said the flooding has been a problem over the years and has worsened in the aftermath of a severe tornado that left about 500,000 acres of the Delta underwater.

“The use of water pumps would essentially prevent flooding in the area by lifting excess rainfall runoff form the Yazoo backwater area and into the Mississippi River,” Thompson said.

Thompson added that between 2008-2018, about $377 million dollars in damages has occurred because of the continued flooding.

“This issue is not only impacting the homes and livelihood of constituents when we experience high flood levels, but farmers in Mississippi are heavily impacted as well,” Thompson said. “The big economic blow will fall on farmers in the area. By the time things dry out, it will be too late to plant corn. It may still be possible to plant cotton, but farmers might be limited to a late planting of soybeans. With agriculture being an immense economic source…it is vital for us to remedy this problem.”

Lacey Little, of Cleveland, also attended last week’s meeting and, along with Oscar Clark, Wade Windham and Brad Britton, volunteered to provide boat rides to inspect the damage.

“We may be spread out here in the Delta, but when a disaster hits, we come together,” Little said. “It gives us hope and confidence.”

Percy Chocolate, an elderly resident of the Delta region, remained in home until he no longer couldn’t. After securing a butane tank, he was forced to leave his home.

“But before he left, he asked for a marker and paper,” Windham recalled. “He told us he had been here his whole life, born right here. He left a sign that said, ‘waiting on the damn pumps.’”