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Mississippi tributary called nation's most endangered river

MGN Online

An environmental organization identified a tributary of the Mississippi River on Tuesday as the nation's most endangered river of 2018 after a retiring senator revived a decades-old flood drainage plan.

Posted: Apr 10, 2018 9:15 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — An environmental organization identified a tributary of the Mississippi River on Tuesday as the nation's most endangered river of 2018 after a retiring senator revived a decades-old flood drainage plan.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to curb flooding in Mississippi's delta region threatens the Big Sunflower River and 200,000 acres (80,938 hectares) of surrounding wetlands, American Rivers said.

The project was pushed for years by U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, a Mississippi Republican who retired this month. The project was thought to be dead after the Environmental Protection Agency vetoed it in 2008, citing the Clean Water Act.

But recently surfaced bill language authorizing the project has jarred environmental conservation groups awake, reinvigorating their efforts to end it once and for all.

Currently, when spring floods swell the Mississippi River, a floodgate is raised to keep that water from backing into the Big Sunflower. But when rainfall is heavy in the Delta as well, the Big Sunflower also floods, and the gate keeps that water from draining into the Mississippi, swamping the low-lying Yazoo Backwater and potentially wiping out crops.

The region most often flooded by the Big Sunflower is dominated by large row-crop operations, properties averaging 1,000 acres (404 hectares) of farmland. The Delta Council, a regional agricultural lobbying group, has pushed heavily for the project to defend these properties from damaging floods.

But environmental groups say the project it would drain over 200,000 acres (80,938 hectares) of surrounding wetlands that are home to a unique ecosystem and an array of wildlife. American Rivers also claims the floodwaters would be redirected away from large agribusinesses so that it damages less prosperous communities downstream instead.

Cochran, a senator known for bringing federal relief dollars to Mississippi, worked closely with the Council throughout his 40 years in the Senate. He pushed for decades not only to get the project completed, but to fund it with federal dollars, at an estimated cost of $300 million.

Prior to his retirement, Cochran made one final push as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, inserting language into the Senate's 2018 Omnibus bill ordering the project to be built "immediately and without delay or administrative or judicial review."

That rider language was eventually dropped, but environmental advocates fear Washington staffers will insert similar language in upcoming bills.

The project would involve a system of pumps to control the water level of the Big Sunflower River. A Corps-designed system first authorized in 1941 would pump river water over the floodgate, back into the Mississippi when the Big Sunflower reaches 87 feet (26 meters).

A spokesman for Cochran said the project would protect Mississippians in six counties and would "save taxpayers in the long run."

"Flood control is costly, but it's not as expensive as floods and the damage they cause," spokesman Chris Gallegos said in an email to The Associated Press.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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CountyConfirmedDeaths
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Jones112849
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Lauderdale91079
Forrest87842
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Washington5919
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Pike44112
Monroe40330
Sunflower4008
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Attala36123
Covington3595
Panola3526
Bolivar34014
Newton3399
Simpson3233
Adams31318
Pontotoc2926
Tate28810
Marion28411
Chickasaw27918
Claiborne27910
Noxubee2678
Winston2666
Jasper2636
Pearl River25732
Clay25111
Marshall2343
Smith21811
Union2109
Clarke20724
Walthall2045
Coahoma2016
Kemper17914
Lawrence1782
Yalobusha1737
Carroll16611
Humphreys1509
Tallahatchie1374
Itawamba1368
Montgomery1352
Calhoun1324
Tippah13111
Hancock13013
Webster12710
Jefferson Davis1124
Jefferson1083
Prentiss1083
Greene1058
Tunica1053
Wilkinson949
Amite912
George893
Tishomingo831
Quitman780
Choctaw744
Alcorn712
Perry674
Stone651
Franklin452
Benton380
Sharkey380
Issaquena91
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

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CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5410152
Montgomery4158103
Mobile4129134
Tuscaloosa232142
Marshall172410
Madison14917
Lee141137
Shelby133423
Morgan11215
Walker97824
Elmore94314
Franklin89814
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Dallas8919
Etowah75013
DeKalb7375
Chambers64227
Butler63428
Autauga61012
Tallapoosa60569
Russell5650
Houston5074
Unassigned50323
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Colbert4086
St. Clair4022
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Coffee3812
Calhoun3765
Covington3707
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Hale31421
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Dale2990
Wilcox2948
Sumter28512
Jackson2842
Clarke2776
Winston2633
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Blount2431
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Pickens2366
Marion23313
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Macon1999
Choctaw19512
Bibb1941
Greene1868
Perry1791
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Lamar781
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