September 8, 2008

A No-Go for the Pump

A cloud of disappointment hovers over the Mississippi Delta following the Environmental Protection Agency's veto of a $220 million flood-control initiative known as the Yazoo Backwater Pump.

The decision, however, reflects not only a victory for the environment but a recognition of fiscal realities, as well. The Yazoo project has long been targeted by the National Wildlife Federation and Taxpayers for Common Sense.

The NWF has called for reforms within the Corps of Engineers to eliminate wasteful spending on projects that ruin wetlands, rivers and coastal areas. One official of the taxpayers' group said corps officials "never met a boondoggle they didn't like."

The project, whose probable demise has angered local, state and federal officials, would have moved 6 million gallons of water a minute from 67,000 acres of wetlands along the Yazoo River, primarily to help farmland recover more quickly from flooding. It has been authorized by Congress since 1941.

But it would have destroyed thousands of acres of wetlands, impaired water quality and harmed the habitat of threatened and endangered species, the EPA noted.

As disappointing as the EPA's decision may be, it reflects a growing awareness: As appealing as radical surgery on the natural landscape may be in the short run, the long-term complications can be deadly.

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