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EPA prohibits Corps flood-control project

In late August, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed the Final Determination prohibiting discharge of dredged or fill material into wetlands and other waters of the United States in connection with construction of the proposed Yazoo Backwater Area Pumps Project. The federally funded project—proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and first authorized in 1941—was designed to address flooding concerns in a 630,000-acre area between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers in west-central Mississippi (Yazoo Backwater Area). The primary component of this project was a 14,000-cubic-foot-per-second pumping station to pump surface water out of the Yazoo Backwater Area during high water events on the Mississippi River.

EPA said it took this action following an extensive evaluation of the environmental impacts the project poses to tens of thousands of acres of wetlands and other water resources. The Yazoo Pumps Project would have cost more than $220 million for construction, with an annual operational cost of more than $2 million.

According to the EPA, the Yazoo Backwater Area contains some of the richest wetland and aquatic resources in the nation, and serves as critical fish and wildlife habitat. EPA concluded that the proposed project would result in unacceptable damage to these valuable resources that are used for wildlife, economic, and recreational purposes.

Under the Clean Water Act (CWA), EPA can prohibit, restrict, or deny using waters of the United States as a disposal site for fill material when it determines it will have an unacceptable effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas, wildlife, or recreational areas. EPA has used this CWA authority only 11 times since the law was passed in 1972.

More information about the decision is available online at www.epa.gov/404c.