Huge Mississippi Wetlands Drainage Project Nixed
"The day pigs fly and hell freezes over is the day the Bush EPA vetoes a pet project of Trent Lott and Thad Cochran," says Mississippi Sierra Club organizer Louie Miller. "But that's what we saw yesterday when the EPA killed the Yazoo Pumps Project."
First proposed in 1941, the $220 million Army Corps of Engineers flood-control project in the Mississippi Delta would have been the world's largest water pump. But on September 2 the EPA vetoed the Yazoo Pumps, saying the project would likely degrade 67,000 acres of wetlands. Conservationists argued the damage would be three times that much.
The Sierra Club led the grassroots fight against the Yazoo Pumps and the Big Sunflower Dredge Project in the Mississippi Delta for a dozen years. "We've worked hand-in-glove with the National Wildlife Federation, American Rivers, and a host of mainly African American organizations here in Mississippi," says Miller, above. "These projects would have spent $250 million to further enrich the wealthy at taxpayers' expense instead of meeting the infrastructure and educational needs of Delta residents."
The Club spearheaded the drive to turn out citizens to hearings and generate some 47,000 public comments to the EPA, 99.9 percent of which supported the EPA's veto of the Yazoo Pumps, and led letter-writing, door-to-door outreach, and lobbying efforts.
Miller says generous donations to the Club allowed him to hire Honey Usery, who was preparing to start law school, as a temporary organizer in the Delta. He also especially praises Melissa Samet, Senior Director of Water Resources at American Rivers, "who had my back and never gave up or gave in."
"Louie has been the grassroots voice on this forever," says Samet. "He's been the glue that's held it all together as far as the on-the-ground effort. This historic, sweeping victory protecting a whole ecosystem wouldn't have happened without his willingness to keep up the fight."
Top photo by John & Karen Hollingsworth, courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Louie Miller photo by Jenny Coyle.