U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Praises EPA Decision on Yazoo Pumps
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 8, 2008
Tom MacKenzie, FWS, (678) 296-6400, Tom_MacKenzie@fws.gov
Connie Dickard, (601) -21-1121
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today praised a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect thousands of acres of ecologically significant forested wetlands in the heart of one of America's most important corridors for migratory birds by opposing the Yazoo backwater area pumping project as it is currently designed. At the same time, the Service's leaders committed to continue working with communities throughout the Delta to find ways to address flood control needs and meet conservation goals that contribute to the strength of local economies throughout the Delta.
Last Tuesday, the EPA announced its decision to veto the pumps project being developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Mississippi Levee Board, relying on its authority in the Clean Water Act.
"We fully support the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to veto the proposed Yazoo pumps project as it is currently planned," said H. Dale Hall, the Service's director. "We have consistently expressed significant concerns about the adverse environmental impacts associated with this project, which has been on the books since the early 1940s. The action EPA has taken is based on sound science that demonstrates unacceptable adverse effects on 58 species of fish; 42 species of birds; 21 species of amphibians; and 32 species of reptiles if the proposed project were completed."
The proposed project would have adversely affected bottomland and riverine backwater wetlands by reducing the frequency, duration, and extent of flooding over extensive areas that provide important habitat for fish spawning, rearing, foraging, and cover. Those wetlands also provide critically important habitat for many species of migratory birds, particularly waterfowl, shorebirds, and water birds. The hydrologic changes associated with the proposed project would have also impacted numerous amphibian and reptile species dependent upon seasonal flooding to support their life cycles.
The Service has four National Wildlife Refuges located within the project area (Yazoo, Theodore Roosevelt, Panther Swamp, and Holt Collier). These refuges were established in part for the benefit of migratory birds. The proposed project would have reduced the frequency, duration, and extent of flooding on these four refuges by 59 percent within the 2-5 year floodplains, impacting the Service’s ability to manage for those birds. EPA’s action on Tuesday ensures that these refuges will continue to be managed to achieve their intended purposes benefitting wildlife-dependent recreation such as waterfowl hunting and birdwatching throughout this part of the Delta.
"We are for sustaining and strengthening the Delta's economic future in the area of wildlife-dependent recreation and we want to keep the region's abundant and diverse natural resources in the best condition possible," Hall added. "A win/win scenario is always possible if we all work together toward one goal of balancing fish and wildlife and public recreational uses for a positive economic future and realistic flood protection."
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov or http://www.fws.gov/southeast.