Ann Dahl makes an interesting story as a flood-control activist. It’s a role she’s taken on passionately, but quite by accident.
Dahl’s personal timing could not have been worse.
In early 2018, she retired from her job at the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station in Port Gibson, and the summer of that year bought her retirement home on Eagle Lake near Vicksburg.
Months later would begin one of the heaviest rainfalls in the country on record, which led to the unprecedented flooding in the South Delta, including half of the homes on Eagle Lake. While Dahl’s house was spared, it’s been reported that her boathouse and pier are damaged, for which she does not have insurance.
She considers herself one of the lucky ones, but she has seen the misery and losses around her, with more than a half-million acres under water for six months, and hundreds of homes flooded.
She has begun a one-person crusade to try to educate others about the “slow torture” that part of Mississippi has endured, to push for the completion of the Yazoo Backwater Pumping Station that got torpedoed a decade ago by environmentalists, and to take on the misleading information she says they have put out and continue to.
Writing this past weekend an op-ed column in the Clarion Ledger of Jackson, Dahl succinctly states what people in that part of the Delta are seeking and deserve: namely, for the government to keep its promise to not make one part of the region the victim of everyone else’s high water.
The South Delta is not asking to be kept dry during times of flooding. That’s a topographical impossibility. It just wants certainty of how high the water will get before it is sent downstream.
It is a point worth emphasizing. Had the pumps been installed, as Dahl pointed out, there still would have been more than 350,000 acres under water this year, including about 100,000 acres of farmland. But homes and roads would have been spared, thus eliminating most of the human misery.
The pumps also are cost-effective, contrary to the claims of the Environmental Protection Agency, which vetoed the project in 2008, and other opponents. The current estimated price tag is $380 million for the massive pumping station. While not cheap, that’s less than half of what the losses from this one year’s flood will end up costing the taxpayers.
The EPA, at the direction of the Trump administration, is reviewing its veto of the project. Mississippi’s congressional delegation as well as a number of longtime flood-control advocates are pushing for a reversal in that decision.
One of the most effective voices, though, may be a retiree who avoided attention as a youngster, who knew little about flooding a year ago, but now speaks with a confidence and authority that makes people listen.