Sound Coalition seeks new legislation

The Mississippi Sound Coalition, a group of local leaders working to avoid a repeat of last summer’s disastrous spillway opening, is asking its member cities and counties to lobby Mississippi’s congressional delegation for help.

The coalition, which met Wednesday at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, voted to ask 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.

During the meeting, 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 to improve federal law regarding fisheries disasters, sponsored by Mississippi Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith and Congressman Steven Palazzo.

The coalition recommended that its member governments consider a resolution endorsing these bills.

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

News & notes: MLK celebration, Fire Station 7, Cono

MLK celebration: This week’s City Desk podcast, recorded this morning at City Hall, has the inside story and a preview of this weekend’s Coastwide celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. To listen to the program, click here.

Fire Station 7: It’s the largest public safety facility in the city, outside the Lopez-Quave Public Safety Center, and now you can see the dedication of Station 7, on Popp’s Ferry Road, east of Cedar Lake Road. To see the 33-minute dedication ceremony, with comments from Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, Councilmember Kenny Glavan, Fire Chief Joe Boney and others, click here.

Farewell, Cono: The Biloxi Fire Department hoisted a U.S. flag high above the entrance of Nativity BVM Cathedral this morning as the funeral was being conducted for Cono Caranna, the former city attorney and district attorney who died Jan. 9. To see the scene from downtown this morning, click here.