GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman delivered an early Christmas present to the coast Wednesday.
Accompanied by coast legislators, he brought a $7,000,000 tidelands check to the Department of Marine Resources. The money comes primarily from coast casinos, which lease tidelands property from the state.
Previous tidelands money helped pay for Moses Pier in Gulfport, new boat ramps at the foot of Courthouse Road and the schooner pier in east Biloxi.
Calling it "Christmas on the Coast" Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann proudly presented the $7 million check.
"We had difficulties during the Katrina years," said Secretary Hosemann. "The money really was reduced about $2.5 million during that period. But now it's grown back up to over $7 million a year and it does great work on the coast."
Boaters and fishermen certainly appreciate the end result of the tidelands program: New ramps and piers and places to fish.
"When the revenue was down the last few years, I caught more flack over the smaller check we were getting every year in this program than in anything else I do," said Rep. Randall Patterson, who represents east Biloxi. "Thank God we got the money back up and we've got places we need to spend it on."
The annual tidelands check is distributed through the Department of Marine Resources, which often partners with counties and municipalities for various recreation projects.
"And those counties on the gulf coast are going to be excited about splitting this $7 million among those three counties. So this is a good Christmas for Jackson, Harrison and Hancock counties," said Rep. Billy Broomfield from Moss Point.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the public trust tidelands program. And over those 20 years, the program has delivered nearly $80,000,000 to fund a variety of recreational projects along the coast.
"Anything to do with recreation and sports fishing is really a popular thing down here on the coast," said Rep. Patterson.
Along with building various piers and boat ramps, tidelands money was also used by the state to purchase much of Deer Island for preservation. The state now owns more than 90 percent of that near shore island.