When the late William F. Buckley founded National Review in 1955, he wrote in his founding essay that the magazine stands athwart history, yelling stop...
The Environmental Protection Agency is poised to yell stop to the Army Corps of Engineers proposed Yazoo Pumps project in Mississippi.
If EPA follows through, it would be a moment of sweet redemption for an overly political bureaucracy that has fallen from the surefooted ways of Bill Ruckelshaus and the banning of lead from gasoline.
In his first National Review essay, Buckley railed against scientific utopias that put man at the center of everything. Yazoo Pumps is the latest monster spawn of the utopian mentality that man always knows better than nature, an arrogance that has left a wreckage of straitjacketed rivers, dog-hair forests, desertification, and extinction vortexes in its wake.
Mate that mentality with the grimy politics of pork barreling and earmarking, and the putrescent result is egregious projects like Yazoo Pumps.
Here is what Yazoo Pumps would do and why its got to go:
When you think of bottomlands in the Deep South, think of the backwaters of the Yazoo River Basin. Located in a thinly populated part of Mississippi, the Yazoo backwaters are a Faulknerian landscape of mucky wetlands, jabbering waterfowl, and thick forests thriving in the still, humid air.
In a letter to the Corps warning of an impending Clean Water Act veto, EPA wrote that the Yazoo Backwater Area includes some of the richest wetland and aquatic resources in the nation, including highly productive fisheries, a highly productive yet increasingly rare bottomland hardwood forest ecosystem, hemispherically important migratory bird foraging grounds, habitat for endangered species, and wetlands providing a suite of important ecological functions.
The Yazoo Pumps project is a $220 million scheme to drain water out of those bottomlands and dry up their habitat. The damage to fish and wildlife habitat, water storage and filtration capacity, and to carbon sequestration would be immense.
Some 500 wetlands ecologists and other scientists who signed a December 2007 letter to EPA said the project would drain or damage more than 200,000 acres of wetlands in the Mississippi Flyway.
And all this to open up marginal lands to soybean farming. Soybeans, by the way, are one of the five crops that are eligible for commodity subsidies under current farm policy. So, with Yazoo Pumps, we get to pay for destruction of a huge aquatic ecosystem in order to pay more subsidies for soybeans.
Many local farmers know more than the Corps. They have despaired of trying to make a living off the Yazoo Backwaters flood-prone soils and restored more than 33,000 acres of private farmland to wetlands.
At a time when were haltingly moving forward with restoring critical wetlands in Louisiana and in the Everglades, Yazoo Pumps would be a great lurch backwards. In the annals of porky projects that have trashed Americas natural heritage and depleted the Treasury, Yazoo Pumps gets a gold star.
Its time to shoot this turkey. Please, Mr. EPA Administrator, take a page from the late Mr. Buckley, stand athwart the pork barrel and yell stop.
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