Mississippi Governor: $53M in coastal restoration projects

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi’s governor has announced more than $53 million in projects to help coastal communities recover from BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Money for the 15 projects is coming from civil or criminal penalties resulting from the spill.

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“I am proud of the legacy during this administration of ensuring restoration funds are spent in the most effective and strategic ways to restore and enhance our natural resources and our economy following the oil spill,” Gov. Phil Bryant said Tuesday at the Mississippi Restoration Summit in Biloxi. “This latest round of projects furthers our efforts to improve our natural resources for wildlife, for marine life, for sportsmen, for recreation and for beach visitors.”

About $38 million is coming from the RESTORE Act, which allocates money from civil penalties. Those include $8 million to find and counter sources of coastal water pollution, such as improving wastewater treatment. Another $7 million would continue a program to rebuild and create marshlands with dredged silt. And $5 million would use sand fencing and native plants such as sea oats to form sand dunes while extending a concrete seawall walkway to keep beach sand off Highway 90.

Projects totaling at least $9 million are aimed at economic recovery. Those include $3 million each to improve the Interstate 10 commercial corridor in Moss Point, to help build an information systems job training center at a community college and to improve a public marina in Biloxi. Another $1 million would improve RV campsites, the waterpark, ecotourism and family entertainment areas at Buccaneer State Park.

The University of Southern Mississippi would get another $4 million toward an oyster hatchery and research center in Ocean Springs and $1 million to help develop a combined program in ocean engineering and business. Mississippi State University would get $3 million toward construction of a seafood safety testing and quality assurance laboratory in the Gulf Coast region.

The remaining grants are from a fund created with criminal penalties from the spill and administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

That includes nearly $6 million to continue assessing reef fish in coastal and nearshore Gulf of Mexico waters. Oysters are the focus of another $6 million: nearly $3.4 million for pilot studies of the best methods to restore oysters and $2.8 million to The Nature Conservancy to restore and enhance an oyster reef in St. Louis Bay.

The Department of Marine resources will get $2.2 million to use concrete a drydock to be demolished as part of Ingalls Shipbuilding’s modernization project to build offshore artificial reefs.

About $836,000 will go toward removing invasive apple snails in and around the Pascagoula River Coastal Preserve.