U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) announced today that he is placing a hold on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Administrator nominee, Gina McCarthy, until the Obama Administration announces a timeline for the release of the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the St. Johns Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project in Southeast Missouri.
Five months after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cancelled a scheduled public presentation on the plan, Blunt and U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (Mo.) brought the EPA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Fish and Wildlife Service together on February 27, 2013 to resolve the disputes that are delaying a final decision on the project. During the meeting, representatives from the agencies committed to providing the Senators with a progress report by March 15, 2013 to ensure that all federal entities involved in the project agree on the facts and are finally moving toward a final decision.
Last Friday, the three agencies failed to meet their own self-imposed deadline to report progress on the stalled project, and instead told the Senators that they were still unable to provide a timeline for exactly when they would release the draft EIS.
"Once again, the government is arguing with the government while nothing is accomplished," said Blunt. "These agencies missed their own self-imposed deadline, which is entirely unacceptable. That's why I'm placing a hold on the EPA Administrator until the Obama Administration can provide us with a concrete timeline for progress on the St. Johns Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project."
The proposed St. Johns Bayou and New Madrid Floodway Project would install pumping stations and close a 1,500-foot gap in the Mississippi River levee system. Progress towards a final determination on the project has been delayed due to disagreements between federal agencies. Blunt and former Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson (Mo.) wrote a letter in September 2012 calling on the Army Corps to provide answers regarding the project delay.
McCaskill had previously written to the heads of the EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Service in December 2012 regarding the delay, demanding that the agencies reach a resolution in 30 days and present a new EIS in 60 days. When the agencies failed to meet the Senator's demand, McCaskill and Blunt organized an in-person meeting last month.