Hancock Co. leaders discuss two mile oil containment barrier - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Hancock Co. leaders discuss two mile oil containment barrier

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

By Al Showers – bio | email

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - A controversial plan to contain oil offshore is sparking debate among leaders in Hancock County. The Coventry plan calls for 40-foot tall pilings to run across the Bay of St. Louis, just south of the Railroad Bridge, with a canvas type of material on both sides of the pilings.

"That will be rolled up, and when the oil's a threat to the Bay of St. Louis, we're going to let the curtains down and it will hold the oil until we can do the skimming and the collection of the oil," Hancock County Supervisor Steve Seymour said.

"It will give us some more permanent placed protection, more fortified protection," Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame.

There will be a 200-foot opening in the barrier that would allow boat traffic to maneuver in and out. Construction crews are scheduled to start putting up 200 feet of the 15,000 foot long barrier Tuesday to test the plan.

"I don't understand why we have to have a test," Harrison County Supervisor Marlin Ladner said. "My position is if it might work we need to deploy it. This whole thing has been dragging and dragging and dragging."

But not all leaders want to see the barrier go up in the Bay. In fact, the Hancock County Board of Supervisors voted four to one against the plan.

"If I'm not mistaken, I think some people has already run into the Bay St. Louis Bridge and how do you miss that," said Pullman.

Pullman and other supervisors fear a barrier put up in navigable waters could pose a safety liability to the taxpayers of the county.

"I don't want to wake up next week and some kid dead riding a jet-ski or better yet a whole family whipped out."

But engineers say there will be safety mechanism put in place to prevent boaters from running into it.

"There will be a light bank on every piling," Compton Engineer Mickey LaGasse said. "The Coast Guard is also requiring that each piling be wrapped in the yellow and white reflective tape."

The controversy could delay the entire project. With Hancock County Supervisors opposed to the plan, the permits which were issued in their name will have to be converted to the city.

If the barrier project goes forward, it will cost about $3 million. City leaders hope to use a portion of a $25 million grant given to the state from BP for protection measures.

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