Update: The rider mandating the construction of the Yazoo Pumps was removed at the last minute from the appropriations bill! Retweet below to thank the wildlife champions who made this possible.


What is the most foolish way the federal government could spend $400 million taxpayer dollars?

Here’s one contender: How about building what may be the world’s largest hydraulic pumping station to destroy 200,000 acres of wetlands for no discernable benefit?

Sadly, the omnibus appropriations bill set for a vote in Congress is about to do just that. No one has seen the text of the omnibus yet, but it is said to include a rider requiring the “immediate” construction of a $400 million project in Mississippi that would damage or destroy an area of wetlands larger than all five boroughs of New York City.

Here are just a few of the reasons this destructive project has no business in the omnibus:

  • A Waste of Money: Originally authorized by Congress in 1941, the Yazoo Pumps projects proposes to spend an estimated $400 million taxpayer dollars on what may be the world’s largest hydraulic pumping plant. The project will reduce flooding on already heavily subsidized farmlands, to the benefit of a just few dozen large landowners.
  • Damage to Wetlands: The Environmental Protection Agency and an independent analysis found that the project would damage or destroy up to 200,000 acres of ecologically significant wetlands—an area larger than all five boroughs of New York City. The Army Corps has only acknowledged 67,000 acres of wetlands would be harmed—still an incredibly large figure.
  • Undermines the Clean Water Act: The George W. Bush Administration put a stop to this wasteful, destructive project in 2008 by taking advantage of the Environmental Protection Agency’s rarely-used veto power in the Clean Water Act. Overturning this type of veto is unprecedented.
  • Unpopular at Home—and Elsewhere: The Yazoo Pumps benefits a handful of landowners in Mississippi, but that doesn’t make it popular within the state. Nine out of ten public comments on the project from Mississippi residents were opposed. Mississippi’s largest newspaper, the Clarion Ledger, wrote five editorials opposing the Yazoo Pumps. The New York Times wrote six editorials lampooning it. Senator John McCain once called the Yazoo Pumps “one of the worst projects ever conceived by Congress.”
  • Can’t Make the Numbers Work: This project cannot stand up to any kind of scrutiny. The rider therefore exempts the project from any further economic or environmental analysis and it would eliminate the potential for judicial review. It is also worth noting that there is no state cost-share—federal taxpayers will cover every single penny of the project’s construction and ongoing operations.
  • Harms Public Lands: The project would effectively spend taxpayer dollars to harm public lands. Wetlands in the Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, the Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, and the Delta National Forest would all be damaged by the project.

Want to know more about this project? Read our detailed analysis.