Whether it’s tracking the bright pink eggs of invasive snails, hunting feral hogs, upgrading airport facilities, barricading against Gulf waves, or training estheticians, Mississippi leaders are continuing to leverage funds from the 2010 BP oil spill towards a wide-ranging and long-lasting restoration effort.
On Tuesday the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality presented to Coast stakeholders about those projects and dozens of others during the agency’s annual Restoration Summit, which updates the public on how the state is spending the roughly $2 billion provided to it after the 2010 disaster.
After last year’s 10th anniversary of the destructive oil spill, Mississippi Today reported that the state had remained in the early stages of addressing ecological priorities, while completing several expensive non-environmental projects. Local stakeholders also criticized the state for not having a cohesive plan for spending the funds.
Since 2016, the state has spent just over $200 million for more than 90 projects that address either an ecological or economic need on the Coast, according to data from MDEQ. In total, the state has budgeted about $580 million in completed or ongoing projects; Mississippi will continue to receive the rest of the $2 billion over the next decade.
Over the last two years, the state has prioritized spending towards restoring its shoreline and coastal habitat; that includes nearly $11 million that went to the Hancock County Living Shoreline, helping to fund a new 46-acre marsh completed this summer. In total, the state has spent $40 million on that project, by far the most expensive one so far.
Several million in recent spending has also gone towards acquiring and managing property to conserve habitat and improve downstream water quality, such as the more than $5 million for land along the Pascagoula River.
Non-environmental spending in the last couple years includes $7 million on a road in Jackson County to reduce traffic along I-10, and $3.6 million that went towards completing the Mississippi Aquarium.
As for total spending so far, about $127 million, or 63%, has gone towards environmental projects versus non-environmental projects. Yet non-environmental projects still comprise about 70% of completed project spending.
As MDEQ Director Chris Wells told Mississippi Today last year, much of the scientific work is not visible and takes years of research, creating a frustrating contrast with the conspicuous economic and infrastructure projects.
During Tuesday’s event, Wells showed a video with testimonials of those impacted by BP spending, including graduates from a work-ready program, oyster gardeners, and a land manager tracking down the invasive apple snail.
Also on Tuesday, Gov. Tate Reeves announced 16 new projects totaling $62 million funded through the RESTORE Act, which were recommended to him by his Gulf Coast Advisory Committee.
Below is a list of those, as well as an updated table of current and completed projects listed on MDEQ’s restoration site:
RESTORE Act Direct Component (aka Bucket 1) Funding:
- Water Quality Improvement Program ($1.1 million) — implementation of new, repaired, or upgraded stormwater and wastewater systems including septic to sewer conversions.
- Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center ($1.54 million) — funding for design, permitting, construction, and installation of parking lot and outer concourse safety and security features. A continuation of previously-funded improvements.
- Commercial Proving Grounds for Space to Sea Floor Environmental Monitoring ($1.65 million) — development of airborne and waterborne unmanned systems to test and calibrate new systems from private, educational, governmental, and military entities.
- City of Moss Point I-10 Commercial Corridor Improvements ($2.2 million) — improve access, connectivity, and safety of the Moss Point Interstate Commerce District to enhance the city’s economy and quality of life.
- Hancock County Tech Park at Stennis Airport ($2.2 million) — construct a building to house the Department of the Army’s Joint Airborne Lidar Bathymetry Technical Center of Expertise (JALBTCX), which has outgrown its existing incubator space.
- Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport Site Expansion and Facility Relocation ($3.19 million) — expand the airport’s 241-acre runway-adjacent Project Ready site to attract industrial aerospace investment. Also, demolish the antiquated vehicle fleet maintenance facility and build a new facility adjacent to the airport’s maintenance building.
- Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport Project Ready Site Mitigation and Prep ($4.18 million) — funding for the mitigating, clearing, and grubbing of an economic development site at the airport.
- Broadwater Marina Restoration Project ($5.5 million) — funding to return to public use 30 acres of state-owned lands that includes future tourism and economic development potential.
- Hancock County Fairgrounds Revitalization/Hancock County Multipurpose Arena ($6.05 million) — upgrades and improvements to the 80-acre fairgrounds and multipurpose arena including facilities and infrastructure to foster economic growth.
- Washington Street Avenue Gateway (Jackson County — $6.6 million) — construct pedestrian-friendly features including sidewalks, crosswalks, landscape the median, and install mast arm signals for safety for Washington Avenue in Ocean Springs.
RESTORE Act Spill Impact Component (aka Bucket 3) Funding:
- Accelerate Mississippi Public/Private Workforce Training Partnership ($2.2 million) — develop and foster workforce development through Accelerate Mississippi in the three coastal counties.
- Coastal Habitat Management Fund ($3.3 million) — provide funding for management plans and management on existing and newly-acquired coastal preserves tracts.
- Beachfront Resilience ($4.95 million) — additional funding for enhancing and repairing Highway 90 boardwalks and sidewalks along with dune plantings and fencing to address sand migration onto Highway 90.
- Gulf Coast Center of Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) Fusion ($5.5 million) — project will focus on developing an Information Technology (IT) workforce for economic expansion, innovation, and societal growth.
- Improvement of wastewater quality and solid waste disposal from Shrimp Processing industry ($5.5 million) — funding for improvements to wastewater treatment and solid waste disposal from the shrimp processing industry.
- City of D’Iberville working waterfront and commercial seafood harbor ($6.6 million) — a project to build a mixed-use working waterfront and seafood harbor in D’Iberville.
Full project list: