City unveils plans for Tidelands, Restore Act applications

The City of Biloxi is applying for $14.5 million in Tidelands funds for waterfront improvements along Back Bay and west beach, and at the same time is applying for more than $112 million in funds through the state’s Restore Act.

The proposals include improvements and expansions of city marinas and harbors for recreational and charter boats, and boardwalks along key areas of the waterfront to foster public use, better access and connectivity. Additionally, the city is suggesting a $100 million perpetual fund be established from BP proceeds for projects and causes Coastwide.

The announcement of the Biloxi initiatives, made during the City Council meeting Tuesday, represents a follow up to a broad vision of $700 million in economic development initiatives that Mayor Andrew M. “FoFo” Gilich and the City Council discussed during a workshop several weeks ago.

The Tidelands request is the largest amount the city has ever requested from the fund, which generates about $9 to $10 million a year primarily from money the state charges for lease of bottomlands along the waterfront.

A report issued Tuesday by City Attorney Gerald Blessey, who also advises the city on economic development issues, showed that in Fiscal Year 2016 the city generated $6.9 million for the Tidelands fund, or 84 percent of the total Tidelands revenue, but only received $680,000.

“A few months ago, just days into office, I met with Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who manages the Tidelands fund for the Legislature, and he agreed that Biloxi should be applying for more money,” Mayor Gilich said.¬† “He didn’t have to tell me twice what I already knew.

“The bottom line is that we have a good plan that achieves the goals of the Tidelands fund, to help engage public use of the waterfront for recreation and economic development. The same is true for the Restore Act requests. We have a plan and we’re ready to go.”

Gilich said he was encouraged that the Tidelands applications have been rated highly by Mississippi Department of Resources staff, in a report to the Mississippi Legislature.

“Of the 58 applications total Tidelands applications, we have two rated in the Top 10, and six rated in the Top 20,” Gilich said. “Over the years, this Tidelands fund has generated millions to build boat ramps, piers and pavilions from Waveland to Moss Point, which is great, but now we have come forward with a collection of projects that have been highly regarded by the Mississippi Department of Resources. We’re hoping our legislative delegation will work to see investments made right here, where the money is generated.”

 

The tidelands applications

 

West Biloxi Festival Boardwalk and Boat Ramp                                          

$3 million

This project would create a beachside, ADA-compliant boardwalk south of the collection of restaurants and other tourism-related businesses on the stretch between Rodenberg and Camellia. The boardwalk would connect open-air pavilions at the foot of Veterans Avenue and Camellia Street, and a new boat ramp at Camellia. The boardwalk would feature benches, informational kiosks and public parking added at intervals, to accommodate festivals and other outdoor events. Total cost of the project would be $6 million, with $3 million funded from other sources.

 

Improved public access and shoreline stabilization at Point Cadet

$275,000

The project would include an ADA-compliant boardwalk to connect the existing walkway at Biloxi Waterfront Park to the Point Cadet fishing bridge. The project would provide improved, safe access to the waterfront for visitors, fishermen and would be complemented by all-weather educational signage about native plants and migratory birds.

 

Pine Street waterfront access road and marine commerce corridor

$2 million

This funding would complement state and federal funding to create a four-lane, divided boulevard that would connect Back Bay Boulevard to U.S. 90 by extending Pine Street. The roadway improves access to an area that is proximate to waterfront seafood businesses and other seafood-industrial sites, as well as tourism and recreational waterfront sites.

 

Back Bay market place and marinas

$2 million

This project would see the waterfront from I-110 to Oak Street become home to a new recreational marina at the Sherman Canaan Back Bay Fishing Dock and the existing shrimping fleet at the Canaan docks relocated to a new commercial marina near Oak Street. The sites, which are near the National Register Old Brick House, and the ongoing Bayou Auguste Restoration Project, would be linked by low-impact, ADA-compliant and lighted pedestrian pathways, boardwalks and bike paths that would run from Bayview to Lee and Oak streets. At the Sherman Canaan marina and recreational site, on 15 acres of city-owned land, visitors would find an open-air kitchen to showcase local seafood and educate the public about seafood cooking methods, or see oysters opened, or take part in culinary workforce training. The market place also would have venues for retail shops, restaurants, a sailing school and space for Mississippi Department of Marine Resources safety classes. The Back Bay area project would also incentivize regional seafood industries, such as soft shell crab aquaculture program.

 

Tricentennial Park Public Access Improvements

$750,000

This project would include uniform landscaping, lighting, irrigation and walkways on a prime piece of oak-filled property that is near the schooner pier and just east of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art. The property is on land the city purchased in 1999 with the thought of creating a Tricentennial Park, commemorating the 1699 founding of Biloxi. The project would include relocation of the Tricentennial mural from downtown, as well as music shell/gazebo to accommodate concerts and other outdoor events, which would take advantage of a setting that offers an unobstructed view of the Mississippi Sound and Deer Island. Additional parking would be added at the northeast section of the site, and a pedestrian crosswalk would provide easy access to the schooner pier, nearby Kuhn Street boat launch and beachfront.

 

Biloxi Small Craft Harbor Expansion

$2 million

This project proposes to expand the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor by 60 slips to the west, and re-configuring slips to accommodate all of Biloxi’s charter boat fleet. The expansion to the west would make the harbor, currently lodged behind the Hard Rock parking garage, more visible to visitors and make it more accessible and inviting. Renovations to the harbor would include additional restrooms; facilities to weigh, display and clean fish; a staging area for sports fishing tournaments and other marine-related events; space for off-the-boat seafood sales; and retail sales of ice and other supplies that support the charter fishing industry. The new harbor would be part of a broader plan to link Central Beach to Point Cadet, to join the Town Green, Vieux Marche, Tricentennial Park, the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, the schooner pier, Harrah’s Great Lawn, St. Michael’s Catholic Church, the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum, Point Cadet Plaza, and the Point Cadet Fishing Bridge.

 

Public access improvements and Point Cadet Marina Improvements

$2 million

This project involves constructing an ADA-compliant, waterfront boardwalk south of the Biloxi Bay Bridge, where the state fishing pier and the shoreline boardwalks have remained in disrepair and derelict since Hurricane Katrina. This project would see sediment removed from Point Cadet Marina and the waterfront dredged to accommodate deeper-draft recreational vessels. Low-profile, all-weather signage along the boardwalk would educate the public about native marine species and migratory boards.

 

Point Cadet Marina expansion and public boardwalk

$2.5 million

This project would see the expansion of Point Cadet Marina about 500 feet to the west, toward the Casino Magic site. The expansion would provide new slips to meet the market of 75-foot and longer recreational vessels and sport fishing yachts. The expansion would include an ADA-compliant public boardwalk, with  long-term plans to extend to Oak Street. The boardwalk would include open-air pavilions, lighting, educational signage and a docking area to support the proposed Deer Island ferry.

 

 

The Restore Act applications

 

Point Cadet Waterfront Boardwalk and Marina

Improvements, Biloxi Small Craft Harbor Expansion

and Tricentennial Park Improvements

$35 million requested

 

The project includes upgrading the existing Point Cadet Marina and expanding it west; an ADA-compliant boardwalk with open-air pavilions, lighting, educational signage and a docking area to support the State’s shuttle service to Deer Island will be constructed to meander west along the waterfront to the Biloxi Schooner Pier Complex, where a lighted crosswalk will provide safe pedestrian access across Highway 90 to¬†¬† Tricentennial Park and the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art. In the same area, the boardwalk will connect with the existing seawall to provide pedestrian linkage to the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor in downtown Biloxi. This harbor will be upgraded and expanded to support the growth of the charter boat industry and expansion of sports fishing tournaments and other water-dependent activities that will benefit the local and state economy.

 

 

Point Cadet Revitalization from the Highway 90 Bridge

to the 1-110 Corridor along the Back Bay of Biloxi

$35 million requested

This project involves creation of a Back Bay Festival Market Place and recreational marina at the site of the Sherman Canaan Fishing Docks. It would  support additional boat slip rentals and offer venues for restaurants, retail shops and may include a sailing school and a facility for culinary arts workforce training that focuses on Gulf seafood and locally-grown products. Shrimping boats will be relocated east to a commercial marina to be constructed on property to be acquired by the city to improve commercial boat access to Gulf channels. Convenient off-loading areas, boat-building and repair areas, marine services and net repair areas will support commercial boat activities. Pedestrian walkways will link these two activity hubs and other points of interest in the project area, including the proposed Pine Street Waterfront Access Road and Maritime Commerce Corridor that will extend and improve Pine Street from 5th Street south to Highway 90.

 

 

West Biloxi Festival Boardwalk and Boat Ramp

$6 million requested

This project involves development of a boardwalk between Rodenberg Avenue and Camellia Street along the seawall will expand beach access, stimulate the creation of family-oriented events such as beach festivals and kite-flying contests and will expand economic opportunities along the area known as the “Old Biloxi Strip.” Working in partnership with Harrison County, the city will construct an environmentally sensitive boardwalk with linking walkways to adjacent businesses and to new public parking areas located at intervals with appropriate signage and lighting. Two pavilions, one constructed east of Veterans Avenue and another near Camellia Street, will anchor ends of the boardwalk, supporting field trips, festivals and recreational activities. Construction of a boat ramp at Camellia Street will provide access to the Mississippi Sound for boating and fishing.

 

 

Gulf Coast Broadband Project

$15 million requested

This project addresses the need for ultra-high speed, fiber-optic, broadband Internet service that has sufficient scope, flexibility, availability and affordability for all of its citizens, governments, private businesses and industries. Biloxi is partnering with Gulfport to lead in developing the regional fiber-optic ring infrastructure necessary to serve Biloxi and Gulfport as well as other Coast municipalities and counties that may join in the project. The initial project will be implemented and administered through an interlocal governmental agreement to bring affordable and ubiquitous ultra-high-speed, broadband Internet service to all through competitive licensing of public and private business service providers and, where necessary, by provision of service directly from the entity created by the agreement to end users. The Gulf Coast Broadband Commission will be created through the agreement and will be a separate legal and administrative organization with authority to acquire interest in real and personal property necessary to create and maintain the regional fiber-optic ring.  The Commission is intended ultimately to include and serve all 13 cities and three counties of the Mississippi Coast and to benefit all those living or doing business in this region.

 

 

lnterstate-110 Corridor Restoration & Enhancement

$6 million requested

Through this project, Biloxi will implement public recreational and storm water management improvements along the corridor of land located underneath the 1-110 overpass. The project activities will be guided by the design standards identified in the 1980s 1-110 Corridor Master Plan that was developed with considerable citizen input, but was only partially implemented due to lack of funding. The project will provide public safety and recreational amenities to benefit single-family residential and mixed-use neighborhoods that border the elevated roadway. Acquisition of wetlands property located on both sides of the 1-110 Corridor north of Division Street will allow the City to restore and preserve Keegan Bayou and to implement stormwater best management practices to filter nonpoint source pollutants from the stormwater runoff that drains unchecked from the Interstate. The project includes an educational signage component to share information with the public about water quality improvement and flood reduction resulting from installation of stormwater management improvements, such as rain gardens. Existing walkways, basketball and tennis courts, lighting and landscaping will be enhanced to expand use of this area by the general public.

 

Biloxi Peninsula Shoreline Stabilization

& Public Access Improvements

$15 million requested

A variety of shoreline stabilization measures are proposed to be implemented along the Biloxi Peninsula in waterfront areas owned or managed by the city to control erosion, adapt to sea-level-rise projections and to improve public safety and access. Stormwater management best management practices will be installed and accompanied by all-weather educational signage to identify short- and long-term public benefits of a properly-managed waterfront area. BMPs will include removal of invasive, non-native plant species and replacement with appropriate native plant species and removal of riprap and replacement with more natural shoreline stabilization measures, including living shorelines composed of various low maintenance materials and designs suitable to each site. Public safety and access improvements will include lighted, ADA-compliant walkways, where appropriate, designed for storm resistance and constructed of material dictated by the specific site and proposed usage. Some of the public access areas will include short fishing platforms/piers and/or boat ramps for launching motorized and/or non-motorized boats (kayaks, canoes).

 

GoCoast Trust Fund

$100 million requested

The City of Biloxi proposes a perpetual GoCoast Trust Fund that will provide debt and equity financing of qualified private and public projects that will repay loans with interest and yield a return on equity investments; and provide grants to public agencies for urgent public projects that do not generate revenue directly, especially eco-restoration projects. The Trust Fund will provide a long-term, economically-sound framework to stimulate regional economic recovery and growth that serves long-term public interests, and it will have the flexibility to adjust to market-driven changes in the regional, national and world economies.