SOURCE: King & Spalding

King & Spalding, a leading international law firm

April 06, 2011 14:53 ET

Ending 70 Years of Debate, King & Spalding Pro Bono Team Brings Final Closure to Environmentally Damaging Yazoo Pumps Project

ATLANTA, GA--(Marketwire - April 6, 2011) - Thanks to the efforts of a team of King & Spalding environmental lawyers working pro bono, on March 28 Judge Sharion Aycock of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi entered summary judgment dismissing all challenges to a United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to veto the controversial Yazoo Pumps project, a long-debated $220 million flood-control project on the Mississippi Delta. King & Spalding counsel Lewis Jones drafted the winning legal brief on behalf of a coalition that included the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Wildlife Federation and the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, which fought the project because of its potential to destroy an important wetland habitat.

Other King & Spalding lawyers involved in the case, Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency et al., included partner Patricia Barmeyer, counsel Randall Butterfield and associate John Fortuna. Walzer & Associates also represented the coalition.

The Yazoo Pumps project, originally authorized in 1941, was to be one of the world's largest pumping stations. Its purpose was to pump water out of the Yazoo Backwater Area during flood events on the Mississippi River to permit increased agricultural production on flood-prone lands that include some of the richest wetlands and aquatic resources in the nation. Sen. John McCain and others over the years considered it "one of the worst projects ever conceived by Congress."

The project was never built, but it kept coming back to life, most recently in the form of a plan finalized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2008. The EPA intervened by exercising its rarely used veto authority under the Clean Water Act.

The Pacific Legal Foundation filed suit on behalf of the Mississippi Levee Board in 2010 to challenge the veto, claiming that the proposed pumping station fell under an exemption in Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, and the future of the project hinged on this challenge to the veto. King & Spalding represented the coalition of environmental groups that intervened on behalf of the EPA, and the case was decided in its favor without argument.

"The fact that the EPA chose to exercise its veto power for only the 12th time in its history reflects how potentially damaging it believes this project to be," said Jones. "We are pleased that the judge has agreed, and that King & Spalding was able to bring final closure to this notorious and ill-conceived project."

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