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Controversial Yazoo River Pumps project left out of $1.3 trillion omnibus package

OMNIBUS: The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill has money for the controversial Yazoo River backwater pumps project that critics say could destroy thousands of acres of wetlands. Photo by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Retiring U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran received some touching tributes from other senators Thursday and will have the federal courthouse in Jackson named after him, the 10th longest serving U.S. Senator.

One thing that he wasn't able to secure on his way out of the Capitol as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee was funding in the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill for the controversial Yazoo River Backwater Pumps Project.

The 2,235-page omnibus spending package could avert another shutdown, which is looming after today. It would only fund the federal government through September 30, the end of the fiscal year.

President Donald Trump, on his Twitter page, threatened a possible veto of the bill this morning over the much-reduced funding for the wall on the Mexican border and no action to deal with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The Obama administration-created program, which was created in 2012 and Trump has tried unsuccessfully to shutter thanks to several federal court decisions, allowed minor immigrant children meeting certain conditions to receive two years of deferred action on deportment and a work permit.

THREAT: President Donald Trump could possibly veto the $1.3 trillion spending bill that only covers the nation until September 30.

U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Union) was the only member of the Mississippi congressional delegation to vote against the omnibus spending bill, which passed the House Thursday by a 233-186 margin and the Senate today just after midnight by a 65-32 margin.

The Yazoo Pumps project would have consisted of one of the largest pumping stations ever built — with a pumping capacity of 14,000 cubic feet of floodwater per second — that would removed it from than 630,000 acres of marginal farmland between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers during floods on the Mississippi River. This area, known as the Yazoo backwater, floods every other year and the pumping station on Steele Bayou would've sent the floodwaters to the Mississippi.

The project was supposed to cost $220 million, with annual maintenance costs running about $2.1 million. The project was torpedoed by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2008 after studies showed that it would've harmed more than 200,000 acres of valuable wetlands, including the Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, the Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge and the Delta National Forest.

The EPA's decision was later confirmed in U.S. federal court in 2011 after defenders of the project mounted a legal challenge to the EPA. The project bubbled up from the muck last last year after Cochran put a rider into a draft appropriations bill that would've not only funded the project, but also shut down any dissent by the courts or regulators over it.

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