March 30, 2011

When will the South Mississippi Delta get congressionally promised flood relief?

By When will the South Mississippi Delta get congressionally promised flood relief?

Author:  Damien M. Schiff

Earlier this week, a federal court in Mississippi upheld the Environmental Protection Agency's veto of a much-needed flood control project in the Mississippi South Delta. Attorneys for PLF filed the suit on behalf of the Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners, a state agency entrusted with protecting area residents from the ravages of Mississippi and backwater flooding. The vetoed flood control project would have entailed the construction of a single pumping station that would partially relieve the effects of flooding in the Yazoo Backwater area of the region. The Board had argued that EPA had no power to veto the project under the Clean Water Act because the project had obtained a special Congressional exemption from EPA veto in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, the court ruled Monday that the evidence proving that an exemption actually was obtained was inadequate.

The court's decision means that, at least for the time being, the residents of the South Delta will remain the only people in the Mississippi River watershed who do not have effective flood control in place. In the ruling's wake, Peter Nimrod, Chief Engineer of the Mississippi Levee Board, said, "This disappointing ruling is not going to stop the board from continuing to devote its full energies to securing adequate flood protection for the people of the South Delta region, as Congress mandated seventy years ago. That mandate remains in effect — and so does our commitment to making sure it's fulfilled."

The Board is currently deciding whether to appeal the lower court's decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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