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

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 161516

Reported Deaths: 3916
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10708104
Hinds10519205
Harrison7555113
Jackson6708128
Rankin6130112
Lee547697
Madison5202110
Forrest400187
Jones382189
Lauderdale3727147
Lafayette344057
Washington3367108
Lamar307550
Lowndes261167
Oktibbeha259962
Bolivar250185
Panola240253
Neshoba2311122
Marshall227151
Leflore213991
Monroe212278
Pontotoc211231
Lincoln200867
Sunflower195555
Warren184958
Tate184051
Union176826
Copiah172540
Pike168360
Pearl River163870
Yazoo162940
Scott162730
Itawamba162637
Alcorn160428
Coahoma157844
Prentiss156732
Simpson155153
Adams148352
Grenada147145
Leake143344
Holmes135761
Covington135541
Tippah132530
George131725
Winston131726
Hancock130942
Wayne124924
Attala124735
Marion124248
Tishomingo114844
Chickasaw112132
Newton112129
Tallahatchie100727
Clay97127
Clarke95653
Jasper88523
Stone83115
Calhoun81513
Walthall79930
Montgomery78826
Carroll76315
Smith75716
Lawrence75214
Yalobusha74428
Noxubee74217
Perry69326
Tunica63519
Greene63022
Jefferson Davis60217
Amite59315
Claiborne59316
Humphreys55719
Quitman5117
Benton50518
Kemper49318
Webster47914
Wilkinson41322
Jefferson38712
Franklin3726
Choctaw3697
Sharkey33117
Issaquena1234
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 260359

Reported Deaths: 3776
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34716513
Mobile20452370
Madison14215153
Tuscaloosa13755173
Montgomery12731243
Shelby1110278
Baldwin9341137
Lee801566
Morgan722855
Etowah692170
Calhoun6809121
Marshall675058
Houston552739
DeKalb512940
Cullman480246
St. Clair460357
Limestone455046
Lauderdale443357
Elmore432567
Walker3861112
Talladega381157
Jackson361623
Colbert341546
Blount315845
Autauga289342
Franklin262634
Coffee257717
Dale244454
Dallas234932
Chilton233641
Covington232434
Russell23153
Escambia206932
Tallapoosa190291
Chambers187551
Clarke164120
Pike163814
Marion148236
Winston144725
Lawrence137336
Pickens129720
Geneva12818
Marengo126724
Bibb125238
Barbour121429
Butler120042
Randolph107022
Cherokee106724
Hale101432
Fayette99916
Clay94825
Washington93921
Henry8996
Monroe84611
Lowndes82629
Cleburne80714
Macon77122
Crenshaw73330
Conecuh72914
Lamar7258
Bullock70919
Perry6987
Wilcox65518
Sumter59522
Greene44518
Choctaw43519
Coosa3824
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