Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann announced Friday the state’s acquisition of 492 acres of Cat Island, bringing the bulk of that barrier island off the Gulf Coast under state control.
“Cat Island is a special treasure because of its natural beauty and the protection it offers the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Hosemann said. “By finalizing this acquisition, we are ensuring your grandchildren’s grandchildren will be able to enjoy this natural treasure in perpetuity.”
The 492 acres on the eastern coast of Cat Island was purchased by BP in 2011 from the Boddie family to facilitate oil spill cleanup after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
After the passage of SB2438 sponsored by State Sen. Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport, in the 2015 Legislative Session, the State and National Park Service executed a swap for the 28.5 acres that make up Goose Point for land of equivalent value adjacent to the park service property. The Boddies still own 72 acres of land on the island.
The 492 acres was bought from BP for $13.7 million in federal funds from the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers purchased the land as part of a long term effort to restore the Mississippi Gulf Coast and increase its resilience to future storms.
Once the deed was agreed upon, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave the deed to the State of Mississippi.
With its maritime forest, estuarine marsh, sand dunes and beaches, Cat Island’s ecology alone was an impetus for the acquisition.
“The acquisition of Cat Island’s eastern shore is another example of Mississippi’s commitment to preserving and restoring our most scenic and sensitive habitats,” Jamie Miller said, the executive director of the state Department of Marine Resources. “This new acreage will be added to the existing Cat Island Coastal Preserve already under the management of our agency.”
The Department of Marine Resources will be tasked with protecting and conserving marine interests on the island.
As part of the deal, the U.S. Corps of Engineers plans to build up the sand beds on the eastern beach with 2 million cubic yards of dredged sand in hopes of restoring the island to its pre-1998 condition. The project is expected to be completed next year.
“Three years ago, George Boddie and myself went with BP to the island. We walked the whole island,” Hosemann said. “This was after the oil spill. We said that at some point of time in the future we would own that island. And after two centuries, Mississippi is getting its island back.”