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Yazoo Backwater Project – A Lower Delta citizens’ perceptions of the Lower Delta sump area and flood control held by two opposing groups

Life, Politics, and the Environment in the Mississippi Delta – property rights continue to be usurped by political bullying of environmental groups and federal agencies with total disregard to the facts of an unnatural burden placed on an economically impoverished region.The following was submitted to be incuded in the final EIS statement for the Yazoo Backwater Project.  I could not find it in the web version of the final EIS.  I have blogged about it in response to this article in the Clarion Ledger, a Jackson, MS newspaper – http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071212/NEWS/712120347/1001/news Readers upon completion should review “inverse condemnation“, “mill pond and eminent domain“, and the testimony of James Hand, Jr. before the Committee on Flood Control, 77th Congress H.R. 4911 April 21-May 14, 1941 pages 810-825 to fully understand the implications and impacts improvements to seemingly unrelated areas has had on property owners in the Lower Delta of Mississippi.

 

A Lower Delta citizens’ perceptions of the Lower Delta sump area and flood control held by two opposing groups:

1)      Environmental Groups

a.       The entire Lower Delta is a Natural Sump area that should never have been developed in any manner

b.      Flood control projects are an attempt to further develop Natural Sump areas

c.       Lower Delta drainage problems are nothing more than a localized and natural ponding problem in a Natural Sump and flood control efforts are not justified to protect or develop a sump area

2)      Citizens of the Lower Delta

a.      Lower Delta bears the economic burden of flood control for the entire Mississippi River Valley

b.      Portions of the Lower Delta are a Natural Sump and probably should have never been developed

c.       Flood control projects are an effort to protect areas that are not in fact a portion of the perceived Natural Sump, but to protect areas that have been impacted by drainage improvements throughout the entire Mississippi/Ohio basin

Lower Delta drainage problems are not a localized ponding problem in entirety nor is the entire area a sump area, and while there are areas that are natural ponding areas and natural sumps, a large portion of the Lower Delta area is in fact not a natural sump, but a man made one created for the better good of citizens throughout the Mississippi/Ohio drainage basin.

 

Placement of storm water runoff systems in metropolitan areas, parking lots and highways preventing natural percolation of rainfall, the diversion of flow of the Chicago River bringing Great Lakes water into the drainage area, levee construction throughout the Midwest river areas, blockage of the area known as the Eudora Floodway, and funneling by the levee system on the West side of the Mississippi River converging with the Yazoo Bluffs on the East side of the river have created higher stages which hamper the natural drainage of the Lower Delta. The improvements that adversely impact the Lower Delta are not local, and without knowledge or admission of these facts, then the perception is that the natural sump is much greater than it actually is.

 

Other than the Chicago River diversion, most of the improvements mentioned were conducted throughout the entire Mississippi/Ohio drainage basin after the catastrophic flooding of 1927.  The improvements were a national priority for the better good of all since the problems affected such a great number of people in a large geographic area both from a humanitarian and economic point of view.  It was known that improvements throughout the Mississippi/Ohio basin would impact river stages at Vicksburg with elevated stages and longer durations that would be detrimental to getting excess water out of the Lower Delta in the “natural” manner.  Since the Lower Delta would be impacted in this manner for the better good of all in the Mississippi/Ohio basin, plans included sump pumps which would alleviate the impact of the elevated river levels and the extended durations of these levels at Vicksburg.  We have seen 99% of these projects completed and have experienced the increased river stages and increased durations of those high stages as was anticipated. What we have not seen is the completion of the one project that was in the Mississippi/Ohio flood prevention design that would alleviate the problems we would experience by virtue of improvements upstream from us. 

 

One solution to our non-local “localized” problem could be to tear down the Mississippi/Ohio levee system, open the Eudora Floodway, stop up all of the storm drains in metropolitan areas throughout the Mid-West, and dam up the Great Lake flow into the Chicago River. It would be crazy to do that. Politically it would be a no-brainer, economically a no-brainer, and from human standpoint a no-brainer. Which brings us back to the Lower Delta, if doubters of these facts would get a copy of a cross sectional graphic showing river levels at the peak of the 1973 flood at a latitude coinciding with the southern end of the sump area and covering over to Monroe, Louisiana, they would see that the Mississippi River was at extremely high levels, that the levee system was keeping some of those higher levels off of us using a localized view, but from a regional view the system was holding water on us. That from the West Levee over to Monroe where the “natural” relief mechanisms, being those waterways west of the levee system, were not even above normal levels.

 

Airports are usually built at the highest elevation possible, the one at Mound, Louisiana is at an elevation that roughly coincides with some of the lower elevations in the “natural” Lower Delta Sump and under 90 feet sea level.  The Lower Delta due to improvements throughout the Mississippi/Ohio basin was drowning in a flood that exceeded 100 feet sea level and the normal “natural” relief valve (i.e. Eudora Floodway, low banks, widening of streams vs. funneling effect at Vicksburg) were not available for the Lower Deltas “natural” relief.  Areas that would have naturally flooded on the West side of the river were not flooded at 85 feet sea level, while we for the better good were seeing flood levels above 100 feet sea level. This is the reason that property owners in the Lower Delta become so emotional over the Pump Project. We have been economically impacted for the better good of non-local areas. We don’t have a problem with the concept of “for the better good”!  The entire Mississippi/Ohio basin has impacted our present and future values and the one item that was to alleviate the impact our citizens would suffer has been made into a localized problem, a political pork barrel, an environmental nightmare, an attempt to further develop a natural wetland, etc. each and every time that those legislators who understand the concept that we have suffered for the better good of other areas attempt to alleviate the problems that were thrust upon us by simply finishing the last part of the original design for the whole Mississippi/Ohio basin.

Our problem is not local!

We have been impacted for the better good and have not received the final product of the overall project that would alleviate the impact placed upon us, nor compensation for impacts on our present and future values that would be expected in a property “taking” or eminent domain proceeding.

 

No pumps? Fine! Help us be made whole! Reforest the entire Lower Delta? Fine! Help us attain the economic satisfaction we might have enjoyed if we had not been impacted for the better good! You will find that just as anywhere, we have citizens that have no regard for the environment, but the majority of our citizens have a great regard for it. Past Lower Delta support for a Pump project has absolutely nothing to do with a desire to harm the environment, but with alleviating the man made impact suffered by the area for the common good of the Mississippi/Ohio watershed area.

 

This is pure economics and I am sure that you will find that those individuals in the Lower Delta that have the ability to see how they have been impacted for the greater good are also just as adept at quantifying what it would take to alleviate lost economic value for the better good and more than willing to accept other forms of economic satisfaction in lieu of seeing completion of the promised project that would alleviate the impacts experienced in the Lower Delta from projects elsewhere. 

 

Amsterdam citizens would never have built dikes without windmills unless compensated for lost economic value. Amsterdam is a worldwide economic powerhouse that is below sea level, so is New Orleans. The Lower Delta is not much different in size than Amsterdam or New Orleans, and is for the most part more than 90 feet above sea level. Amsterdam and New Orleans are huge economies, while we are amongst the countries poorest areas. The Lower Delta would have never allowed improvements elsewhere that would impact them without the pumps (windmills) or compensation for the impacted parties.  Eminent Domain procedures ensure that property owners are compensated for properties or rights that are taken for the better good. The Lower Delta area had no Eminent Domain proceedings because the Lower Delta area would in exchange for suffering for the better good of others then receive a tool (pumps) to alleviate the impact of that suffering.

 

This has been an effort to show some facts that are not understood, ignored, or not realized by some persons. It is a valid complaint on the part of the Lower Delta.  Due to the impacts mentioned above, we have lost population and economy, we have been limited in present value and future value, and have neither the votes nor the dollars to get attention paid to our points other than by a few of our legislators that have taken it upon themselves to fully understand the whole (non-local) issue. Instead of being delivered the promised relief for detrimental impacts or compensation, great sums of money have instead been consumed by litigation, studies, public meetings, delay tactics, all dealing with issues that have nothing to do with where the Lower Delta is coming from in the matter nor how we have been impacted in a non-local way. We would like to have the tool in the original plans to alleviate that impact or compensation for that impact we have suffered in the present and are destined to suffer in the future.

 

Attachment 1

Basic Information supporting property owner’s point of view pertaining to statements involving the concepts of lost opportunity and future values: Graphic Display Showing effects of Time Value of Money from November 1980 to November 2002 on various investment Vehicles

 

Chart – Time Value of Money

 

A productive acre in the corn belt can go for as much as $4,000.00 an acre while an acre in the Lower Delta has remained stagnant since 1980.  $1,000.00 invested in 1980 in the equivalents of the S&P 500 grows to $6,382.00 by 2002, in the Dow Jones Industrials $8,532.00, and boring and unexciting blue chip Johnson and Johnson, grows to $48,242.00 after the market bubble burst.

 

This is the power of compounding, which for some reason is neglected in our schools.  This is how severely area property owners have been harmed as mentioned before by limiting development opportunity.  If the groups that want this area reforested had purchased the properties in 1980 the selling property owners at worst would have quadrupled their value in another investment.  The property owners values remain stagnant because environmental policies that have limited the areas ability to pursue development and growth while at the same time keeping property owners from moving into something else non-agricultural.

 

The Lower Delta counties assessed valuation is only16% of the average Delta county assessed valuation.  This valuation reflects the lost opportunity brought on by the burdens of unnatural flood events.  Similar Delta counties that have not had a burden placed on them have an average assessed value 6.25 times that of the Lower Delta.  Given a $1,000.00 base value times 6.25 equals $6,250.00, ironically in line with the growth an equity holder would experience having been invested in an unburdened environment.  This is not to say that all property in the Lower Delta would have experienced such growth, but that in our communities where we could have had increases in assessed valuation by virtue of building subdivisions, commercial facilities and or factories and creating jobs and infrastructure, we instead have had a contraction in our economy caused by the burdens placed upon it for the greater good of the entire Mississippi/Ohio River basin.  These are real damages placed on the equity holders of the Lower Delta and these damages need to be quantified and cured.

 

Attachment 2

Facts demonstrating economic impact to Lower Delta (which consists primarily of Sharkey and Issaquena Counties)attributable to burdens placed upon that area for the grater good of areas throughout the Mississippi/Ohio drainage basin

Facts demonstrating economic impact to Lower Delta (which consists primarily of Sharkey and Issaquena Counties)
attributable to burdens placed upon that area for the grater good of areas throughout the Mississippi/Ohio drainage basin
                   
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

Sharkey County

 

Sharkey County

   

 

Delta County Average

 

Sharkey County

 

Amount below Delta Average

 

% Of Delta Average

Retail Sales  

 

$299,013,696.00

 

$37,118,705.00

 

-$261,894,991.00

 

12.41%

Sales Tax Collections

$18,264,269.00

 

$2,169,928.00

 

-$16,094,341.00

 

11.88%

Bank Deposits

$280,833,333.00

 

$51,000,000.00

 

-$229,833,333.00

 

18.16%

Assessed Valuation

$172,879,304.00

 

$36,149,347.00

 

-$136,729,957.00

 

20.91%

Per Capita Income

$19,995.00

 

$13,264.00

 

-$6,731.00

 

66.34%

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

Issaquena County

 

Issaquena County

   

 

Delta County Average

 

Issaquena County

 

Amount below Delta Average

 

% Of Delta Average

Retail Sales  

 

$299,013,696.00

 

$14,670,456.00

 

-$284,343,240.00

 

4.91%

Sales Tax Collections

$18,264,269.00

 

$553,907.00

 

-$17,710,362.00

 

3.03%

Bank Deposits

$280,833,333.00

 

$4,000,000.00

 

-$276,833,333.00

 

1.42%

Assessed Valuation

$172,879,304.00

 

$19,391,231.00

 

-$153,488,073.00

 

11.22%

Per Capita Income

$19,995.00

 

$14,101.00

 

-$5,894.00

 

70.52%

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since the predominant area of the “Lower Delta” is within Sharkey and Issaquena Counties,

 

 

the two counties are combined for a “Lower Delta Average” Calculation

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

Lower Delta

 

Lower Delta

   

 

Delta County Average

 

Lower Delta

 

Amount below Delta Average

 

% Of Delta Average

Retail Sales  

 

$299,013,696.00

 

$25,894,580.50

 

-$273,119,115.50

 

8.66%

Sales Tax Collections

$18,264,269.00

 

$1,361,917.50

 

-$16,902,351.50

 

7.46%

Bank Deposits

$280,833,333.00

 

$27,500,000.00

 

-$253,333,333.00

 

9.79%

Assessed Valuation

$172,879,304.00

 

$27,770,289.00

 

-$145,109,015.00

 

16.06%

Per Capita Income

$19,995.00

 

$13,682.50

 

-$6,312.50

 

68.43%

The above table shows the Lower Delta in Comparison to the Delta Average, and one must remember that the Delta Average is handicapped substantially by the Lower Deltas statistics, so the situation here is more dire than indicated in comparison to our peers in the Delta. One should also remember that the Delta as a whole is one of the poorer regions in the country, so the dismal comparison of the Lower Delta to the Delta as a whole should further demonstrate just how badly the Lower Delta has been hampered by lost opportunity. What is the reason the Lower Delta differs so significantly from a seemingly common situation of its neighbors? Could the burden placed on the Lower Delta for the better good of the Mississippi/Ohio basin be the culprit? Could actions to delay the tool to alleviate that burden have further exacerbated that burden due to the workings of the Time function of the Time Value of Money equation? Would you be willing to compare your community to ours? Would you be somewhat miffed that your present value is not what it should be? Would you think that your future value would be impacted through continued burdens placed on your community?
 
 
 

 

      

I ask you as reasonable persons, to please set aside whatever your agenda and study what I am saying. There is a way to accomplish your goals, there is a way to accomplish what you want with the assistance of those persons you deem to be the opposition, there is a way to accomplish your goals and at the same time make it the Lower Delta goal as well. I simply ask that you all temporarily put yourself in the Lower Delta position, pretend it is your home, commercial property, farm, whatever it is that you presently have an equity position in and hold dear. Remove yourself from the emotions of your desires for the Lower Delta and step back in time to when this all took place, see what really happened and how it really is not totally a local “natural” situation and how if put in the same situation it would have affected your equity position on what you hold dear and how you would feel about it. What would it take to make you feel whole?

 

The Lower Delta property owners do have an emotional attachment, just as you do, but they are more than likely astute business persons just as you are and more than willing to accept compensation in lieu of a final project for past impacts thereby adjusting his economic value to where it would normally be given a reasonable rate of return that was not impacted by burdens placed upon it for the better good and able to move forward from that point using partnership projects to make sure that reasonable future values can be attained.

 

Time Value of Money is powerful!  It can work for you or against you. By delaying satisfaction of the Lower Delta, the impact becomes more and more pronounced each and every year. The Lower Delta has been patient waiting on cures for burdens placed upon it. The Lower Delta has been patient in waiting on studies, hearings, environmental impact statements, etc. But just as paying the minimum on a credit card payable impacts the card holder in a detrimental way, the Lower Delta is suffering in a similar way, its economic value is not being damaged like the card holder from interest accruing on debt, but from having an asset that has been limited in its’ ability to compound.

 

I ask you all to help the Lower Delta find the cure for this and then move forward to accomplish common goals. I asked you to step back and look from the Lower Delta point of view, I hope that you can step back forward and say, Gosh, now I see what he is saying, I see that it is not a local problem, it is not a natural problem, and that even though I still want to see the Lower Delta reforested and conserved, I am going to do my best through my organization or agency and as an individual to see that these folks are compensated for the impacts placed upon them and hope that I can also get innovative programs in place to get them to move forward with us in reforesting and conserving the Lower Delta.  I am going to help get these guys a carrot to entice them to want to do the same as our group and quit hitting him over the head with a stick trying to force him.

 

Again, my apologies if my points are taken in the wrong manner. I would be tickled to see the Lower Delta reforested and a National Recreation Area in place along with Eco-Tourism as long as willing equity holders were made economically whole, pumps or no pumps; I have tried to show a neutral position on them while I still insist that the rights of the locals to economic satisfaction and compensation for a taking that has transpired over a long period of time be addressed and corrected. I think I have been fair in giving my point of view and have tried to convey that point as eloquently as a citizen from the Lower Delta could be expected to. Your efforts to communicate this concept amongst your organization, agency, and or between yourselves as well as to your legislators should serve us all well in accomplishing your goal of reforesting the Lower Delta.

 

Go ahead, lets see if we can get funding that pours into the Lower Delta one of the poorest areas in the country, lets establish an Eco-Tourist economy, lets let our legislators make an environmental statement by funding this, lets let the Environmental Organizations accomplish a project that is dear to their heart and important to the environment, lets let the Agencies put together a Model Project that they will not only be proud of but that will be for the better good of all, and lets as a group make sure that the property owner is not only made whole for past impacts for the better good, but also that he is able to enjoy a future value that he is entitled to!  

 

The Man of La Mancha was deemed crazy for chasing “windmills” and dreaming the impossible dream.  It seems we on both sides are doing the same as he, and while I can’t remember how the novel turned out, I know that neither side on this issue can attain its dream in a timely fashion without working together to make both sides dream come true.

 

 

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December 12, 2007 - Posted by | real estate | , , ,

7 Comments »

  1. […] read this post on the Yazoo Backwater Project – .gallery { margin: auto; } .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; […]

    Pingback by What happens to Wildlife during flood events in the Lower Delta? « Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fort Morgan, Gulf Coast, Real Estate | April 18, 2008 | Reply

  2. “Those documents form the crux of the legal position that if Congress had approved the pumps, the Environmental Protection Agency had no authority for its veto of the Yazoo Backwater Project earlier this year.”

    http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20081130/NEWS/811300367/1001/news

    Comment by gulfshoreslife | November 30, 2008 | Reply

  3. “Levee board officials asked for the documents after the Environmental Protection Agency cited the absence of such proof of congressional involvement in a response to letters in July by U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran. The state’s two senators support the pumps and wrote to the EPA asking for an explanation of the executive agency’s authority. Their position was that the $220 million pump project should be exempt from an EPA veto issued in August citing Clean Water Act provisions dealing with the impact to wetlands and wildlife.”

    http://www.vicksburgpost.com/articles/2008/11/27/news/doc492e1c5fec912026782448.txt

    Comment by gulfshoreslife | November 30, 2008 | Reply

  4. How is it the EPA has the right to veto anything?

    “The project has been congressionally authorized, funded and supported. But the EPA has one authority under the Clean Water Act — under Section 404(c) — where if they think a project will be absolutely detrimental to the environment and there’s no way to mitigate for it, they can veto the project. That’s what they’re using.

    “It doesn’t make sense. It’s like they aren’t even thinking.

    “There are huge, national environmental organizations that have despised this project and put out all kinds of misinformation about it. They’ve gathered support from around the world to oppose (it). They’re winning and they’ve got the EPA with them.
    “The EPA has caved on this and decided they’ll give them something — the Yazoo backwater project is it.

    “It’s absolutely discouraging. The Mississippi Levee Board is outraged that the EPA would do this. The EPA is supposed to be a cooperating agency. Sure, they can complain about (some aspects of the project). But to kill it off just doesn’t make sense.”

    http://deltafarmpress.com/news/flood-yazoo-0515/

    Comment by gulfshoreslife | November 30, 2008 | Reply

  5. A good reference document on the Yazoo Backwater area and the Flood Control Acts – http://www.mvd.usace.army.mil/mrc/mrt/Docs/Yazoo%20Backwater%20Area%20info%20paper.pdf

    Comment by Cal | May 15, 2011 | Reply


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