Port expansion will be under the microscope

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Leaders at the Port of Gulfport believe they have an opportunity to create a shipping terminal that rivals any facility in the world. And if that happens, they argue the Port of Gulfport expansion will lure new ships, additional jobs, and much needed tax revenue to Mississippi.

Thursday night, step one in the expansion process begins. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will host its first public hearing about the Port of Gulfport's expansion plans. That hearing will give you a chance to learn what the port may look like if it's developed the way designers envision.

At the hearing, port experts will explain why they need to fill in 160 acres of water to the south, and 24 acres immediately west of the west pier. They'll also discuss improvements that will be made to the east pier. Once the presentations are complete, you'll have a chance to share your thoughts about what you like or don't like about the expansion.

The Corps of Engineers will use your comments, along with the analysis it does, to ultimately determine if this expansion should get a permit. Port leaders tell us typically, that analysis takes about three years. So, they say the earliest their expansion will come out of the ground is in 2014.

The meeting begins at 5:30pm on the Long Beach campus of USM Gulf Coast. Click here to read more about what will be discussed.

In the meantime, rebuilding what Hurricane Katrina destroyed is already taking place. The head of the port's restoration program says the Port of Gulfport received $570 million in CDBG money after Katrina to elevate the facility to 25 feet. The belief is that should make it more resistant to future storms.

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