A Wal-Mart superstore proposed for Waveland, Mississippi has stirred up the bottom in Waveland, and has state and federal officials suggesting that the project is all wet. Wal-Mart originally proposed filling in more than 31 acres of Wet Pine Flats wetland in Waveland, but later submitted plans purportedly filling in “only” 19 acres of wetlands. Last March, the Mississippi Office of Pollution Control took exception to the project, and indicated there were “feasible alternatives” to impacting the local water quality, and asked Wal-Mart to look at “the possibility of reducing the footprint of the project”. Then, in early November, the federal Environmental Protection Agency wrote that the affected wetlands were “an aquatic resource of national importance, and determined that the proposed project will result in substantial unacceptable impacts to this resource.” The EPA said the planned Wal-Mart would violate the Clean Water Act, and noted that efforts to avoid and minimize wetland impacts were not sufficient to allay their concerns. Why, the feds asked, was Wal-Mart not willing to expand its existing store in Waveland? Wal-Mart responded by saying that its current contract with its landlord prevented any expansion of its existing store, either horizontally or vertically, e.g. adding a second floor. The EPA noted that “expansion of the existing store would greatly reduce the amount of important aquatic resources impacted by the applicant”, and the agency asked Wal-Mart to turn over a copy of their lease for the EPA to review. “Development of a multistory facility would allow the applicant to utilize a smaller site and potentially avoid impacts to important aquatic resources,” the EPA suggested, and concluded: “The alternative analysis should be revised to include evaluation of smaller sites which could accommodate multistory facilities.” Thus far, town officials seem to be saturated with Wal-Mart propaganda, and have raised no objection to destroying nearly half a football field worth of valuable wetlands. Only abuttors to the project have voiced concern about the absurdity of wasting wetlands just to give Wal-Mart a second, larger store in Waveland, which will have a high probability of leading to the closing of the existing Wal-Mart discount store in town.
What often happens, is that state or federal officials will grouse about flaws with a big box retailer, but then the developer offers revisions to “mitigate” this or that, and the feds and state officials disappear. Developers know that all they have to do is submit a new plan or two, and outlast the government officials, who usually cave in. In this case, why didn’t the EPA just shut down the project by stating the obvious: the scale of this project presents unacceptable adverse impacts to an important water quality resource? For other examples of big box stores encroaching needlessly on wetlands, search the ‘newsflash’ database by “wetland”. For the name of a contact person in the Waveland community, email [email protected]