According to the National Weather Service in Jackson, over 500,000 acres of land in the Mississippi Delta is currently flooded, including nearly 225,000 acres of cropland. The Mississippi River at Vicksburg is expected to crest Friday into Saturday.
Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith has asked President Trump to approve the use of temporary pumps in the Yazoo Backwater Area to begin removing floodwaters that have contaminated the region for months on end.
In a letter sent Wednesday to the President, Hyde-Smith summarizes the statutes, presidential disaster declaration, and emergency funding available to support the installation of temporary pumps to begin draining flooded areas of the South Mississippi Delta.
“There is an immediate need to remove the trapped floodwaters, which can only be accomplished by pumping it from the protected side of the levee system,” wrote Hyde-Smith, who serves on Senate appropriations subcommittees with jurisdiction over the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Given the available resources and existing authorities under current law, I respectfully request that you direct FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other federal agencies to take swift action to install temporary pumps in the Yazoo Backwater Area of Mississippi to remove floodwaters until a long-term solution is constructed,” she wrote.
It is not uncommon for FEMA to assign the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dewatering missions following major flood events. Temporary pumps were used to remove floodwaters following Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.
President Trump on April 23 approved a major disaster designation for Mississippi, which included damage resulting in floodwaters trapped within federally-constructed levees and floodgates. Roughly 860-square-miles of the state have been flooded for more than four consecutive months with disastrous results for homeowners, businesses, farmers, communities, and the environment.
Hyde-Smith said recently enacted FY2019 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act provides sufficient funding to deploy temporary pumps in the near future, as efforts continue to force a reconsideration of the Environmental Protection Agency 2008 veto that stopped development of the Yazoo Backwater Pump project.
Hyde-Smith’s letter to President Trump is available below and here.
June 12, 2019
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing to request emergency assistance in response to catastrophic flooding affecting the lives, property, and general wellbeing of thousands of Mississippians.
Contaminated floodwater trapped inside of Mississippi’s intricate system of federally-constructed levees and floodgates has inundated roughly 860 square miles for more than four consecutive months. Persistent high water on the Mississippi River, excessive rainfall within the 4,093-square-mile drainage area, and the lack of a federally-authorized yet unconstructed pumping station to remove water has resulted in devastation across a large portion of the state. There is an immediate need to remove the trapped floodwaters, which can only be accomplished by pumping it from the protected side of the levee system.
As a result of this flooding and other severe weather events, you approved on April 23, 2019, a major disaster declaration for the State of Mississippi under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. The Stafford Act authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to direct other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to use available personnel, supplies, and other resources to provide assistance in the event of a major disaster declaration by the President. In addition, the Corps of Engineers has independent statutory authorities, such as section 5 of the Flood Control Act of 1941 (33 U.S.C. 701n), to provide direct assistance in the form of portable pumping stations to remove trapped, contaminated water sources. Following Hurricane Katrina, for example, the Corps of Engineers installed a number of temporary pumps to remove the floodwaters from New Orleans, and to remain in place until permanent pump stations could be constructed.
The Fiscal Year 2019 Supplemental Appropriations Act enacted on June 6, 2019, provides $1.0 billion for the Corps of Engineers to carry out emergency response activities authorized under section 5 of the Flood Control Act of 1941. It also provides $575 million for the Corps to address emergency activities within the Mississippi River and Tributaries (MR&T) project area, which the flooded area of Mississippi falls within.
Given the available resources and existing authorities under current law, I respectfully request that you direct FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other federal agencies to take swift action to install temporary pumps in the Yazoo Backwater Area of Mississippi to remove floodwaters until a long-term solution is constructed.
I greatly appreciate your leadership in addressing the national disasters and emergencies that have beset the nation. I look forward to continuing to work with you and your Administration to help the people of Mississippi affected by the ongoing flood disaster in my state.
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