Big Sunflower River lands top spot on America's list of Most End - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Big Sunflower River lands top spot on America's list of Most Endangered Rivers in 2018

The Big Sunflower River is on America's Most Endangered Rivers list 2018. Source: WLBT The Big Sunflower River is on America's Most Endangered Rivers list 2018. Source: WLBT
The Big Sunflower River is on America's Most Endangered Rivers list 2018. Source: WLBT The Big Sunflower River is on America's Most Endangered Rivers list 2018. Source: WLBT
The Big Sunflower River is on America's Most Endangered Rivers list 2018. Source: WLBT The Big Sunflower River is on America's Most Endangered Rivers list 2018. Source: WLBT
The Big Sunflower River is on America's Most Endangered Rivers list 2018. Source: WLBT The Big Sunflower River is on America's Most Endangered Rivers list 2018. Source: WLBT
ISSAQUENA COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The Big Sunflower River has landed the number one spot on the list of America's Most Endangered Rivers.

It flows 250 miles from Coahoma County all the way down to the Yazoo River, and what should happen in the backwater area is at the center of an ongoing fight.

The new list of America's Most Endangered Rivers cites a potential revival of the decades old Army Corps of Engineers Yazoo Pumps project as the biggest threat to the Big Sunflower River. They say it would drain critical wetlands at enormous taxpayer expense.

"These are wetland bottoms," said Andrew Whitehurst, Gulf Restoration Network Water Program Director. "The entire Delta is very flat and it's crisscrossed by these rivers in the Yazoo system."

Those raising a red flag say roughly 200,000 acres of those wetlands and wildlife would be in jeopardy if the pumps went in.

"When a river is connected to its floodplain as the Big Sunflower is, you've got a robust biological life, fish species composition," noted Whitehurst.

That controversial Yazoo pumps project would be built near the Steele Bayou structure, that's the only thing currently keeping the backwater flooding from being worse.

Mississippi Levee Board Chief Engineer Peter Nimrod explains why they've lobbied in support of the project for years now.

"Every other state, every other drainage basin out there in America in the lower Mississippi River has a pump that pumps the water over the levee for them," explained Nimrod. "They enjoy flood control behind a levee. Here we are talking about a levee and we're talking flooding on the protected side and that's because we don't have a pump."

Nimrod said the Yazoo pump plan includes reforestation of nearly 60-thousand acres---increasing the wetlands of the backwater area.

"To be approved, this project would require the mitigation of 66,000 agricultural acres, meaning over 75% of the existing ag acres in the impact area would be converted back to wetlands," responded Lindsey Lemmons, Executive Director of Mississippi Wildlife Federation. "That's great for conservation, but mitigation doubles the $220 million project cost and will only protect approximately 20,000 agricultural acres. We have to ask ourselves if it's worth it and are there cheaper alternatives." 

"If you truly love the environment, agriculture and wildlife, you'd be for this project," Nimrod added.

To view the full list of America's Most Endangered Rivers 2018, click HERE. To see details of the Yazoo Pumps proposal, click HERE.

Copyright 2018 MSNewsNow. All rights reserved.

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