Governor's panel to aid in Gulf Coast oil spill recovery

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour is asking a group of coast scientists, business leaders and politicians to develop a long-term vision for the area's recovery from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Monday, the governor announced the creation of the Mississippi Gulf of Mexico Commission. The 34-member commission will work closely with the Gulf of Mexico Alliance and various state agencies to develop a plan to submit to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, the former Mississippi governor tapped to lead the long-term restoration of the Gulf of Mexico.

"In the wake of the oil spill, we have an opportunity to address any number of issues in a comprehensive way, not just for right now, but into the future," Gov. Barbour said. "This commission will have a wide charge, from preliminarily determining the impact of the oil spill on Gulf ecosystems to addressing concerns about seafood safety to improving hurricane protection and habitat restoration.  The Gulf of Mexico is the driving force of the Gulf Coast economy, so effective long-term planning and action to improve this asset will result in long-term economic growth for the MS Gulf Coast."

The Commission's first meeting is scheduled for 2:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 17, on the 7th floor of the Hancock Bank, 2510 14th Street, Gulfport.

Commission members include Co-Chairs Dr. Bill Walker, director of the Department of Marine Resources, and Trudy Fisher, director of the Department of Environmental Quality; Richard Gollott representing seafood processors; Tom Becker representing the Mississippi Gulf Coast Charter Boats Association; Dr. Vernon Asper, marine science professor at USM; Dr. Ray Highsmith, director of the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology at Ole Miss; Dr. David Shaw, vice president for Research and Economic Development at MSU; Dr. LaDon Swann, director of Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium; Dr. Jay Grimes, professor of marine microbial ecology at USM; Ron Peresich, chairman of the Gulf Coast Business Council; John Hairston with Hancock Bank; Jerry St. Pe, Jackson County businessman; Chuck Benvenutti, Hancock County businessman; Robert Khayat, former Ole Miss Chancellor; Frances Turnage with the State Port Commission; Hank Bounds, IHL commissioner; Steve Renfroe with Chevron; Tish Williams, Director of the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce; Senator Tommy Moffatt; Representative Frances Fredericks; 11 mayors; and the presidents of the Jackson, Harrison, and Hancock county Boards of Supervisors.

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