JACKSON, Miss. (AP/Circa) — An environmental organization identified a tributary of the Mississippi River on Tuesday as the nation's most endangered river of 2018 after a retiring senator revived a decades-old flood drainage plan.
The so-called Yazoo Backwater Pumps project, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to curb flooding in Mississippi's delta region, threatens the Big Sunflower River and 200,000 acres of surrounding wetlands, American Rivers said.
"This is a $300 million boondoggle that would destroy 200,000 acres, or at least damage those 200,000 acres of prime wetlands habitat."
That could be a big problem, Williams added, because wetland acreage has been in continuous decline since 2000--possibly jeopardizing the people and animals that rely on the water to survive.
The project aims to free up space for agricultural purposes, and was pushed for years by U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, a Mississippi Republican who retired this month. The project was thought to be dead after the Environmental Protection Agency vetoed it in 2008, citing the Clean Water Act.
But recently surfaced bill language authorizing the project has jarred environmental conservation groups awake, reinvigorating their efforts to end it once and for all. The Environmental Protection Agency wouldn't respond to repeated requests for comment.
Other rivers included on the annual list aren't specific to any geographic region, spanning areas from Alaska to Texas to Minnesota. Rivers like the South Fork Salmon River and Bristol Bay face increasing threats from mining, pollution, dam construction and climate change, Williams added.
But it's not all bad news, at least for now.
"The 'Most Endangered Rivers' report is really a call to action, listing 10 rivers annually that are under threat, that are of regional and national significance, and there's something that can be done this year, that you can do, the public can do this year to try to save those rivers," he told Circa. "The 10 rivers on the 'Most Endangered Rivers' list are emblematic of rivers all over the country, which are under threat from pollution, dewatering, dams and infrastructure, from growing populations, climate change are putting ever greater demand on water resources. And rivers are the natural systems that gather and deliver water for people and nature."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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