Seafood museum, fishing bridge issues resolved

Two multi-million-dollar publicly funded projects in Biloxi that had been held up because of historical concerns and funding issues took major steps forward this morning.

The Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum will abandon intentions to build on the Tullis-Toledano waterfront site and will instead rebuild at its pre-Katrina site at Point Cadet, sidestepping concerns over possible Native American burial sites and artifacts at Tullis. And the Coast legislative delegation has committed to finding $271,000 in funding that would allow concrete rubble from fishing bridges at Point Cadet and Back Bay to be moved to the Katrina reef, south of Deer Island.

The museum issue had tied up $6 million in funding, while the concerns over the removal of concrete from the two bridges stood to delay a $9 million project that included building a new fishing bridge at Point Cadet.

Councilmembers were briefed on both issues this morning by Director of Administration David Staehling.

“Both of these projects had faced big hurdles, and they both involved funding,” Staehling said after the meeting. “By deciding to return to Point Cadet, the Seafood Industry Museum removes the threat of losing millions in funding had anything of historic significance been discovered during construction at the Tullis site. Such a loss would have been catastrophic.”

The other issue involved removal of concrete rubble from the destroyed fishing bridges at Point Cadet and Back Bay. FEMA was willing to pay only for the lowest bid, which would have been to have the concrete hauled away on land and recycled, while some had wanted to see the concrete debris barged to the Katrina reef, where it would be used to expand the fishing reef south of Deer Island that was created with rubble from the destroyed U.S. 90 bridge between Biloxi and Ocean Springs.

“The issue had been to find the $271,000 to pay the difference between the options, and now our Coast legislative delegation has said they will find that money,” Staehling said. “This has been a great day on two major projects that are important to this city.”