Gulf Coast restoration projects get $50M

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A $50 million plan to restore water quality and boost parts of the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s economy received a green light this week.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality announced that the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council—which is represented by Gulf Coast states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the secretaries from the U.S. Departments of the Interior, Commerce and Agriculture, among others—has approved its State Expenditure Plan.

This plan includes projects geared toward improving water quality along the shoreline and Mississippi Sound, said Marc Wyatt, director of the Department’s Office of Restoration, on Wednesday.

These projects include the Mississippi Gulf Coast Water Quality Improvement Program ($45 million); Pascagoula Oyster Reef Complex Relay and Enhancement ($3.5 million); and Compatibility, Coordination, and Restoration Planning ($1.3 million).

Wyatt said the department submitted the plan for council approval late last year soon after gathering input from the public at the department’s first-ever Mississippi Restoration Summit in November.

Now the department must apply for individual grants. The council must approve the grants, and then the department can start the projects.

Wyatt said the public’s main concerns have been about the sound’s water quality and the many beach advisories often sent out by the department. However, these projects are among the first steps in a decades-long process.

“The funding will come in over a 15-year payout schedule, but projects are anticipated to (take place over a period) longer than that,” Wyatt said.

In the near future, the department will host annual restoration summits where they will update the public on its projects, and request their input.