‘We’re very fortunate,’ mayors tells Conference of Mayors

Here is the prepared text of comments that Mayor A.J. Holloway took to the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Monday, June 21, 2010 in New Orleans:

First, I want to thank The US Conference of Mayors and Mayor Landrieu for organizing this session. On behalf of the people of Biloxi and of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, thank you.

We’re very fortunate in many respects. We have 26 miles of sand beach, the longest man-made beach in the world, and we’ve had a few tar balls, but other than that the closest thing that we have seen is a sheen that was about 30 miles southeast of us on a barrier island called Petit Boil Island.

I believe that the string of barrer islands will be our first line of defense if the oil comes our way. That’s good and bad. These are pristine islands, and the damage to the marshes will be an ecological nightmare.

The hardest hit so far in Biloxi and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are the charter boat fishing industry, our seafood processing, our seafood restaurants and other visitor-related industries have been impacted.

Let me give you some numbers provided by the University of

Southern Mississippi, which analyzed our tourism industry:

—Revenue losses on the Mississippi Gulf Coast from May to August are expected to be more than $1 19 million, which is down 5 percent from the same period in 2009.

—These losses are primarily in the tourism and service sectors related to hotels, restaurants, and foot and beverage outlets, but does NOT include losses in the seafood sectors, such as shrimping.

—Let me give you an idea of the hit to shrimping. Last year, on opening day, we had 230 shrimp boats in Mississippi waters. This year, we had 67. On Friday, we had about 40.

—Now, back to the survey: Non-casino hotels are down 50 percent from this time in 2009. The hotels alone are expecting to see a $26.8 million loss in revenue compared to these same months in 2009, which, I might add, is the peak of their season.

—Seafood restaurants say business is down 30 percent.

—Charter boats are in a free fall. Revenue is down an average of 70 percent, with some down over 90 percent.

At City Hall, we’re not just sitting back, we’re working with the state Department of Marine Resources and the county Sand Beach Authority to have BP install X-Tex fencing around critical areas like storm drain outfalls along the beach, and around rock jetties and any marsh grass areas on both the beach and in the Bay of BiIoxi.

X-tex, its creators say, traps oil, but allows water to pass through. Its creators say, the material is hydrophilic, which allows the material to filter water more quickly and absorb more oil.

We’re also looking to do something that we did before Katrina came ashore, and that’s have a contractor on hand and ready to go should oil threaten or come ashore. We want some on stand by,
working for us, ready to go on a moment’s notice. And, of course, we want BP to pay for it.

By far, the biggest problem we have is perception. We can’t see any oil. It’s never been within 30 miles of us, but to the person in Timbuktu watching the national news, they have the idea that everyone from Louisiana to Florida is ankle-deep in oil. That’s just not the case.

Thank you again for inviting us to be here.