Law Street Media

Lawsuit Objects to Project Pumping Water from Mississippi Wetlands

Scientist sampling creek's polluted water

A lawsuit filed on Wednesday against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the District of Columbia District Court alleged that the government organizations should not have given approval to a “massive pumping plant” designed to drain wetlands and prevent flooding in a rural area of Mississippi, the Yazoo Backwater Area. 

The plaintiffs, American Rivers, National Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and Healthy Gulf, claimed that the plant would drain rich wetlands and reduce aquatic resources. The complaint cited that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “decisively vetoed the pumps during the George W. Bush Administration due to the unacceptable adverse impacts on wildlife and fisheries.” According to the advocacy organizations, however, the Corps approved the project during the last few days of the Trump Administration using the same analysis which was previously rejected by the EPA and not participating in the appropriate public comment procedures. 

“By repeating those same errors,” the complaint said, “the Corps severely underestimated the pumps’ devastating impacts and failed to inform the public about the true costs of the project.” The plaintiffs alleged that there are other solutions to pump the water and reduce flooding of homes in the area, which would not be as harmful to the environment.

According to the plaintiffs, the periodic flooding of the Yazoo Backwater Area helps sustain the habitat, which is used by migratory birds for foraging. They claimed that about 60 percent of the bird species in North America rely on habitats in the Mississippi basin. In addition to the risks to the environment, the plaintiffs claimed that discharging up to 9 billion gallons of water daily, as the planned pump is capable of doing, could cause a risk to the area downstream from the pumps. 

The complaint alleged that the defendants breached the Administrative Procedure Act, the Clean Water Act, the Water Resources Development Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Endangered Species Act in its approval of the project because of their incomplete analysis. Additionally, they reportedly violated the veto from the EPA which has not been revoked. 

The plaintiffs, represented by lawyers with Earthjustice, asked the court to vacate the decision and grant them declaratory and injunctive relief, calling the decision to approve the project “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with law.” 

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