Pork knows no party. Just as West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) has his $880 million Corridor H highway project, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) has his Yazoo and Sunflower River water projects.
Not surprisingly, Senator Lott, one of Congress’ most powerful members, recently helped obtain tens of millions of dollars in the FY97 Energy and Water appropriations bill for a series of Army Corps of Engineers projects in the Yazoo Basin.
“Yahoo for Yazoo!” local special interests are exclaiming about the $119 million Yazoo Backwater Pumping Plant. In 1986 the project was essentially killed when Congress required locals to share 25 percent of the cost. It was no coincidence that the project was revived in the 1996 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) when local funding requirements were removed from the project.
Yazoo would remove standing water in wetlands in the south Mississippi Delta by pumping it into drainage outlets. But cheaper alternatives exist, including the purchase of flood easement areas to allow natural flooding patterns. Changing land use is reducing the need for the project anyway. In recent years, south Delta land owners have reforested tens of thousands of acres of flood prone farmland rather than continue row crop production in those risky areas.
Another project that has long been on the back burner has also been revitalized. The $62.5 million Big Sunflower River “Maintenance” Project includes 130 miles of flood control and dredging work to reduce flood damage on farmland in the south Mississippi Delta. At a cost of $1000 per acre the project is hard to justify, especially because an alternative plan to purchase flood easements is both easier and cheaper.
Regardless of the cost of these pork projects, environmentalists are up in arms about them as well. They say that the Yazoo project would drain up to several hundred acres of wetlands and promote farming on marginal lands. The Sunflower River project would harm 4,500 acres of waterfowl and fish spawning habitat, promote erosion and damage an economically viable population of freshwater mussels.
Executive Bonuses for Government Bailout
Add possible scandal to taxpayer rip-off! According to the Springfield, IL State Journal Register, Soyland Power Cooperative in Decatur, IL may have awarded its top executives bonuses between $200,000 and $420,000 for securing a taxpayer bailout of the co-op’s failed investments. In September, the Rural Utilities Service forgave $982 million of a $1.2 billion loan to Soyland.