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Mississippi senator asks Trump for pumps to ease flooding

By JEFF AMY, AP

JACKSON, Miss. — Faced with weeks more flooding in a part of Mississippi that's been underwater since February, one of the state's U.S. senators on Wednesday asked President Donald Trump to order temporary pumps to the area to begin pumping water over the levee and into the already-swollen Mississippi River.

, Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith also renewed her advocacy for a permanent pumping station that would remove floodwater from the southern end of Mississippi's Delta region. That's a long-sought and much disputed project that was vetoed in 2008 by the George W. Bush administration as harmful to the region's wetlands.

Levees and floodgates north of Vicksburg were built to prevent water from overflowing into the Delta when the river rises. As of Wednesday, the river has been above flood stage at Vicksburg for 116 consecutive days, with floodgates closed much of that time.

The problem comes when the gates are closed and it rains in parts of northern Mississippi. That water flows into the south end of the Delta region and can't drain into the river. Trapped inside levees with nowhere to go, the water has been high since February in what's known as the Yazoo backwater area.

(2,200 sq. kilometers), an area larger than the cities of New York and Los Angeles combined. Residents say it's the worst flood since 1973, and it's been getting worse again since Friday, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed floodgates for another time.

"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," Hyde-Smith wrote. She likened it to the deployment of pumps to drain low-lying areas of New Orleans after flooding associated with 2005's Hurricane Katrina swamped the city. She said the government could use money included in a disaster relief act passed last week to pay for dewatering.

that his agency is reconsidering its earlier rejection.

, saying the titanic pumping station is a multi-hundred million dollar boondoggle that would most benefit large farmers in the area, while draining a complex of wetlands that are of national importance.

"To me, this is something of a Trojan horse to get pumps in place that would stay in place," said Melissa Samet, senior water resources counsel for the National Wildlife Federation.

Samet noted that any water pumped out of the region would have to go somewhere else, part of a multistate balancing act of who floods and who is protected in the heavily engineered Mississippi system.

"If you start pumping, you have winners and losers," Samet said, arguing that it would be better to elevate homes and roads inside the backwater area.

as well.

That's a hard calculus for many residents of the flooded region to understand, though, with hundreds of homes flooded and some farmers unable to plant a single acre this year. Mississippi Levee Board Chief Engineer Peter Nimrod is a pump supporter who calls Hyde-Smith's request a "brilliant idea," saying it would provide at least a little relief. He said farmers have been proposing to use their small farm pumps to try to drain water, even though that's an impractical solution.

"People have been talking about pumps since day one," Nimrod said.

___

Follow Jeff Amy at: http://twitter.com/jeffamy

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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