/Big Sunflower again listed as a top endangered river in America

Big Sunflower again listed as a top endangered river in America

The Big Sunflower River flows 250 miles south from Coahoma County, where it joins the Yazoo River at the Sharkey/Yazoo border. Because of a renewed political push to build the Yazoo backwater pumps, the Big Sunflower was included on the list for the second consecutive year. American Rivers published the list. It is one of several conservation groups that argued against the pumps. The Big Sunflower flows into the Big Sunflower’s richest concentration of wetlands. Andrew Whitehurst, of Healthy Gulf, stated that the Big Sunflower River is home to some of the most valuable bird and wildlife habitats on the Lower Mississippi River. “The South Delta’s economy benefits by the leasing of private land for duck and deer hunters, and people using state or federal wildlife management areas such as the Delta National Forest.” Nearly every spring, rainwater pool into the Delta as high levels of the Mississippi River flood thousands of acres of forest and farmed land. The backwater flood of last year was the most severe since 1973, and it lasted the longest time since 1927. Since January, 460,000 acres were inundated. In a press release, Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith stated that “Even though we fight the COVID-19 crises, Mississippians living in the Yazoo Backwater Area face a third consecutive year in catastrophic flooding.” The Environmental Protection Agency, which in 2008 vetoed this project citing the Clean Water Act said that it would review the project last year. Hyde-Smith has pushed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as the EPA to get the pumps moving in the last few weeks. In February, Hyde-Smith announced that $7.5 million in corps funding would be used to fund studies and mitigation of the pumps. Hyde-Smith, along with other supporters, like the Mississippi River Levee Board argue that the pumps would not cause any harm because the wetlands are kept dry by rain rather than flooding. Conservationists aren’t convinced. Louie Miller, Mississippi Sierra Club, stated that the Yazoo Pumps were a cruel hoax. They are sold as a panacea to flooding. Instead, they will only benefit a few people who will be able to profit from lucrative contracts that will cost $440 million in taxpayer funding. Miller pointed to a 2019 corps map that showed that only a third would have been saved by the pumps from last year’s historic flood. Tuesday’s report contained a list of possible alternatives to the project. These included voluntary buy-outs, elevating structures and other federal funding options. Olivia Dorthy, American Rivers, stated that Congress and local leaders should invest in flood risk reduction measures that are more affordable and cost-effective to protect the South Delta communities. Correction: This story has been updated to clarify the causes of Delta’s backwater flooding.