With all of the disagreement in Washington today, there’s one high-dollar project the entire Mississippi delegation seems to be in favor of, and that is the completion of the Yazoo Backwater Pumps project.
Mississippi’s two Republican senators, Cindy Hyde-Smith and Roger Wicker, have been touting the project in the U.S. Senate, but the state’s lone Democrat in Washington, Bennie Thompson, has long supported finishing the pumps.
He joined Emmerich Newspapers’ Bryan Davis, who publishes The Enterprise-Tocsin in Sunflower County, for a half hour interview last week and talked briefly about getting the pumps project approved in the House and Senate this year.
“You’re looking at about a half a billion dollars to do the pumps,” Thompson said. “I think doing that kind of funding at once is going to be a big stretch.”
Thompson said it is more realistic to expect incremental funding for the project, which has seen numerous delays over the decades, including a veto on the project by President George W. Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency in the last year of his second term.
After the devastating 2019 flood drew national attention back on the south Delta and the farmers who were affected, Thompson said he’s more optimistic the project will come to fruition.
“We’re back trying to get the pumps done,” he said. “We’ve had some challenges with the EPA in terms of approval. Those challenges, from what we understand, have been mitigated. We’re taking steps in that direction.”
Just this week, Sen. Roger Wicker’s office released video and testimony from a hearing Wicker conducted in the Senate where he called on locals to testify about the economic impact and “environmental injustice” of not having the pumps.
“To begin with, I think we should define what we mean by ‘environmental justice’ and I think really a better topic … is ‘environmental injustice,’” Wicker said in his opening statement. “Regular flooding reinforces this cycle of poverty because residents lack the certainty they need to build homes and establish new businesses,” Wicker said.
Watch our segment with Thompson at the top and videos from the Senate hearing embedded in this story.