City to consider Sound, spillway resolutions

Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich will be asking the City Council next week to approve four measures designed to help avoid a repeat of last summer’s disastrous spillway opening. The mayor also wants to see civic and community groups get involved.

The four resolutions have been recommended by the Mississippi Sound Coalition, a group of community and government leaders from across the Mississippi Coast who want help in lobbying Mississippi’s congressional delegation.

The coalition is asking local governments in the coalition to pass resolutions asking Mississippi’s delegation to:

— Support fisheries disaster law reform bills currently in Congress

— Support a project to restore the Lower Pearl River to its natural state

— Create a special federal management area in the Mississippi Sound

— Support the Mississippi Sound and Lake Pontchartrain Protection Act written by the Coalition, which gives Mississippi a voice in any decisions to open the Bonnet Carre Spillway and calls for scientific proof of the need to open it and duty to seek alternatives and mitigation.

A number of local governments have already passed the resolutions and others are expected to consider the measures.

“I think it should be more than local governments passing these resolutions,” Gilich said. “I hope civic and community groups from throughout south Mississippi – from Waveland to Pascagoula and points north – will take up these resolutions, pass them and send them to our representatives in Washington. It’s a huge issue and we need broad-based community support. The devastation was environmental and economic, and it had a domino effect. No one was untouched.”

During a meeting of the Sound Coalition last week at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Ryan Bradley, executive director of Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United, summarized the fisheries disaster caused by the 2019 openings of the Bonnet Carre Spillway. He also explained amendments, sponsored by Mississippi Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith and Congressman Steven Palazzo, to improve federal law regarding fisheries disasters.

Linda Hornsby, executive director of Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association, described the spillway’s devastating economic impact on tourism businesses: In July 2019, sales taxes collected from tourism businesses began a dramatic decline with gross sales in September ending 26 percent below the previous year.

Gerald Blessey, manager of the coalition, reviewed a previous presentation about the need for a project to restore the natural flow of water between West and East Pearl rivers in order to sustain salinity levels in the Mississippi Sound at their natural levels for oyster beds and other nursery grounds.

Marlin Ladner, chair of the coalition and president of the Harrison County Board of Supervisors, led discussion of a proposal to create a special management area for the western Mississippi Sound under Mississippi’s Coastal Program administered by the Department of Marine Resources.

The coalition recommended that its members consider resolutions to request the Commission on Marine Resources to go forward with scientific and engineering studies regarding the Pearl River water resource project and creation of the Western Sound Special Management District. 

The coalition is composed of 12 city and county governments on the Mississippi Gulf Coast with associate members from private businesses and citizens.  The mission of the Mississippi Sound Coalition is to restore and protect the ecosystem of the Mississippi Sound and the way of life and economies of coastal communities that depend on it, based on good science and fair public policy.
See the resolutions from the Mississippi Sound Coalition
See background on the coalition

News & notes: A sound issue, weekly reports, traffic

Sound issue: A new sound system has dramatically improved acoustics for those attending meetings in the City Council room at Biloxi City Hall, and technicians are working to improve the audio recordings of the meetings, which are used for BTV and the official minutes of the meeting. Council meetings air each morning, afternoon and evening on BTV, and you can see the YouTube meetings archive by clicking here.

Weekly reports: Last week the Biloxi Fire Department responded to 144 calls including 92 for medical and three fires, the Police Department handled 2,022 calls for service, the Community Development Department issued 114 permits with an overall construction value of $2.98 million, and the city’s Engineering Department updated progress on projects throughout the city. To see the reports for Jan. 13-19, click here.

Traffic: The city’s Engineering Department updates the status of road construction each weekday on the Traffic Update page of the city’s website. To see the report, along with links to traffic counts, MDOT cameras and the month’s infrastructure video, click here.