Mississippi News

Wicker: Champions Yazoo Backwater Water Management Plan

Long-Awaited Plan Is a Major Step Forward

In 1941, the federal government pledged to build flood control measures along the whole Mississippi River, but decades of incorrect information and bureaucratic stalling kept a solution out of reach for the South Delta. In the eighty years since, the people of the Yazoo Backwater Area have experienced setback after setback waiting for the government to keep its promise.

With the announcement of a new flood water management proposal, that hope may finally be fulfilled. Government officials unveiled the plan this week at a meeting with community members, and they are asking for the public’s feedback. I welcome the proposal and am eager to see it completed.

Plan is Based on Community Feedback

Bureaucrats in Washington have had the luxury to debate water management solutions. Meanwhile, those living in the South Delta have realized that every spring could deliver a life-altering flood. Residents have pursued solutions but have been met with resistance, such as in 2008, when an effort to install pumps was blocked by the EPA. The stalemate was finally broken last year when the Mississippi delegation invited a group of executive agency representatives to hear directly from Mississippians.

Hundreds of Yazoo Backwater Area residents packed into Rolling Fork’s high school auditorium to share how the constant floods brought hardship and loss to their lives. I watched as locals shared their honest stories and communicated the overwhelming urgency of the situation. This was certainly not the first time residents shared their concerns with federal officials, but this time, the message got through. The team from Washington listened and learned from Mississippians. Events like these convinced them to take the problem seriously and focus on a solution.

After the listening session, I continued to work with executive agencies to develop a plan for the federal government to move ahead with this long-delayed project. This week’s announcement is the first concrete result of our work, and it is a massive step forward.

Water Management Plan Protects Long-Afflicted Areas

The proposed plan would protect a large portion of the Yazoo Backwater Area from flooding. A series of new pumping stations would drain the water that pools on the flood plain during periods of heavy rainfall. In crop season, the pumps would activate when water nears 90 feet. Out of season, they would turn on to keep water from exceeding 93 feet. Whatever the season, pumping stations will still operate at greater capacity than under previous proposals. The limited number of residents whose property falls inside the projected flood zone will be able to receive government help raising their homes, building ring levees, or moving outside the risk area.

Mississippi is Ready for Progress

I know Mississippians are ready for a construction date to arrive. As we move toward that day, the project planners have set aside time for residents to give feedback on the proposal. I encourage everyone in the Yazoo Backwater Area to share their stories and opinions so federal officials can incorporate local input into the new water management program.

Like many in our state, I have spent years pushing for flood control projects in the South Delta, the type of flood prevention other states have enjoyed for years. I am encouraged that now may be the time for residents of the Yazoo Backwater Area to finally get the relief they are due.

Note: This is the weekly Wicker Report and is provided by Sen. Roger Wicker’s office.

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