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: 515504

Reported Deaths: 10296
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34999558
DeSoto33360432
Hinds32743643
Jackson24906392
Rankin22565405
Lee16455245
Madison14954283
Jones14158248
Forrest13834260
Lauderdale12311323
Lowndes11357193
Lamar10693140
Pearl River9748244
Lafayette8868143
Hancock7849132
Washington7559169
Oktibbeha7229138
Monroe7068179
Pontotoc7033110
Warren6885178
Panola6791135
Neshoba6744210
Marshall6707142
Bolivar6468151
Union643598
Pike5942157
Alcorn5921107
Lincoln5540136
George510680
Prentiss508285
Tippah495683
Itawamba4884107
Scott478999
Tate4777117
Adams4776125
Leflore4749144
Copiah458195
Yazoo458092
Simpson4566117
Wayne443472
Covington434895
Sunflower4319106
Marion4295112
Coahoma4244110
Leake414191
Newton396182
Tishomingo386894
Grenada3789109
Stone366166
Jasper341266
Attala340490
Chickasaw318367
Winston318392
Clay312978
Clarke301695
Calhoun286850
Holmes272889
Smith270552
Yalobusha244947
Tallahatchie232353
Greene225149
Walthall222166
Lawrence220242
Perry214556
Amite210357
Webster206548
Noxubee188843
Montgomery182157
Carroll175441
Jefferson Davis174343
Tunica163539
Benton153139
Kemper145441
Choctaw137027
Claiborne134839
Humphreys132239
Franklin126530
Quitman107828
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson97134
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 847659

Reported Deaths: 16172
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1163752005
Mobile743371381
Madison53434738
Shelby38413371
Baldwin38171589
Tuscaloosa36131643
Montgomery34571782
Lee25664264
Calhoun22622519
Morgan22527408
Etowah20059520
Marshall18821318
Houston17769426
St. Clair16946359
Limestone16192220
Cullman16140305
Elmore15948295
Lauderdale15055307
Talladega14244302
DeKalb13061271
Walker12138380
Blount10765193
Autauga10545157
Jackson10204195
Coffee9435192
Colbert9363210
Dale9038192
Tallapoosa7283202
Russell710165
Chilton7078170
Covington6967197
Escambia6962144
Franklin6364108
Chambers5795142
Marion5435130
Dallas5302210
Pike5128109
Clarke485686
Lawrence4845130
Winston4785110
Geneva4650136
Bibb435495
Barbour370180
Butler3444101
Marengo342793
Monroe338366
Randolph337767
Pickens334790
Fayette331485
Henry321066
Cherokee319964
Hale318889
Crenshaw261678
Washington256852
Cleburne255460
Lamar253555
Clay252069
Macon245767
Conecuh193562
Coosa185847
Wilcox178338
Lowndes178268
Bullock152745
Perry141840
Sumter139741
Greene130345
Choctaw94328
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