Much like the waters that devastate portions of the Delta within Yazoo County, political blasts against the Biden administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and even towards Congressman Bennie Thompson came flooding in following last week’s announcement that the Yazoo Backwater Pumps project has been blocked yet again.
“What has been done to the South Delta by the politically motivated Environmental Destruction Agency is criminal,” said Clay Adcock, a local farmer and advocate for the Yazoo Pumps Project.
Last Wednesday, the EPA overturned the approval of the flood-control project in the South Delta area, which includes a large area of Yazoo County. EPA officials said the Trump administration’s decision to approve the pumps project in November of 2020 was in violation of the Clean Water Act and “failed to reflect the recommendations from the career scientists and technical staff.”
Following last week’s announcements, many state Republican leaders blasted the Biden administration for using the Yazoo pumps project as another political game to undo Trump’s decisions.
And Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith publicly called out Congressman Bennie Thompson for “destroying” the Yazoo pumps project.
“This is an absolutely terrible day for the people who live in the Mississippi Delta and an even sadder day for the country when an agency like the EPA refuses to do the right thing for the people,” Hyde-Smith said. “I also give credit where credit is due. Congressman Bennie Thompson destroyed this project, taking one position in his district but working against it in Washington.”
Thompson responded to Hyde-Smith’s comment by asking her to produce “a list of people” he has spoken to against the project.
“Today, Sen. Hyde-Smith accused me of advocating for the Yazoo Pumps Project in Mississippi while not supporting it in Washington,” Thompson said. “The Senator is wrong. I have gone on record in support of this project, and it is documented. Now, she has the burden to produce a list of the people I have spoken to against the pumps project. If she cannot produce the list, it is clear that she is not telling the truth.”
But thanks to the Freedom of Information Act and the Essential Energy and Environment News, a letter was obtained from Thompson to the EPA, requesting an investigation of the EPA’s decision issued during the Trump administration. Thompson cited E&E News with its report that the Trump EPA had ignored warnings of how the project would affect the area.
As reported by E&E News, in his Aug. 30 letter, Thompson said the story raised "serious issues" about EPA’s handling of the project, adding that the decision to vacate the veto "may have been issued in violation of Congressionally-mandated requirements and that critical concerns raised by career staff scientists were ignored." He added, "Since I represent constituents on both sides of this issue, it is critical that science and law, not politics, drive infrastructure projects that impact my district. It is my desire to see all the best scientific and legal means available applied to address flooding or reduce flood risks in my district."
E&E News reported that Thompson requested an "immediate and comprehensive review" of the process that led to EPA’s decision.
"If you find that any current or previous agency staff intentionally violated the law or ignored critical scientific evidence during that process, I ask that they be held to swift account," Thompson wrote.
For many Yazooans, who were greatly impacted by recent flooding in the backwater area, the EPA’s recent decision was a devastating blow. The area’s flooding impacts heavily with crop production and quality of life for those Yazoo residents, many who lost everything when their homes, properties and farmland were consumed by the flood waters.
About 71 percent of the population within the flooded South Delta region is minorities, with 30 percent living below the poverty line.
Adcock, who has been very vocal with the project, said last week’s announcement was an “extreme disappointment.” He said politics has played a major role in a project that affects so many people.
“It was an extreme disappointment in our system of government that allows the South Delta environment to be negatively affected by a few extreme lobbyists,” Adcock said. “These lobbyists give hefty contributions to political parties to effect favorable policy with no concern with our environment. Although the greatest opposition indeed comes from out-of-state people, these opponents do understand. They have no hesitation in sacrificing a relatively few residents in the South Delta to advance their agendas.”
Adcock said the residents of the affected area have suffered through the flooding disaster, but they are resilient and will continue to move forward.
“Adjusting is more difficult when you know the flooding could be prevented with only a positive environmental impact,” he said. “The EPA's politically misguided decision is a setback for the South Delta's wildlife and human environment. Still, we continue to have the support of our senatorial delegation, and we will find the best path forward to get the flood protection authorized by Congress in 1941.”
Adcock said he is very appreciative of Sen. Hyde-Smith and Sen. Roger Wicker, along with other state leaders who continue to fight for the pumps project.
“Senator Hyde-Smith has championed our cause to right this wrong,” Adcock said. “And all Mississippi wildlife organizations, except for Wildlife MS, have provided public support. Many others have backed our efforts, and after this setback, we will need their continued support as we move forward.”