EPA Restores Clean Water Act Protections for Important Wetlands along Mississippi River

By blocking the destructive and ineffective Yazoo Pumps project, the EPA can protect bird habitat while also supporting alternative flood control measures for the region.

WASHINGTONToday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restored a Clean Water Act veto issued in 2008 that would once again block the environmentally destructive Yazoo Pumps project from draining wetlands that provide habitat for more than 28 million migratory birds annually. Recognizing the hemispheric significance of this area, the National Audubon Society, through its regional Audubon Delta office, along with hundreds of other conservation and social justice organizations, science professionals, and members of the public have long opposed the Yazoo Pumps proposal.  In January, Audubon and several conservation partners filed a lawsuit challenging the agency’s abrupt and baseless revocation of the veto in the waning days of the Trump administration. EPA’s announcement today was made in response to this legal challenge.

“The Yazoo Pumps project has always been nothing more than an environmentally destructive boondoggle. By restoring the Yazoo Pumps veto, the EPA has delivered a win-win for the people and birds of the Mississippi Delta,” said Marshall Johnson, acting chief conservation officer of the National Audubon Society. “Thanks to the tens of thousands of Audubon members who submitted public comments in support of science-based conservation, and to our incredible Audubon Delta office for exploring alternative approaches to flood control in the region that will protect both people and birds, today and tomorrow.”

Audubon Delta and the other conservation groups opposing the Yazoo Pumps have provided the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) with a resilience strategy that outlines other prompt, effective flood relief solutions for vulnerable communities in the Yazoo Backwater Area.

As part of the joint effort to inform the EPA and other federal agencies, as well as the public, about the serious risks posed by the Yazoo Pumps project, Audubon and fellow conservation organizations submitted technical comments that showed the Yazoo Backwater Area’s hemispheric importance to birds. Scientists from Audubon’s Migratory Bird Initiative and quantitative ecology team generated weekly population estimates using freely available data from eBird Status & Trends from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Partners in Flight Population Estimates Database from Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. Audubon’s analysis found that the Yazoo Backwater Area supports an estimated 29 million migratory birds every year, including up to 30 percent of the world’s population of Pectoral Sandpipers.

About Audubon
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.

Media Contact: Jill Mastrototaro, jill.mastrototaro@audubon.org