Long Beach signs tidelands lease

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - A struggle over tidelands leases has come to an end in the city of Long Beach, where the mayor signed a 65 year lease on the city's harbor.

"The purpose of the tidelands lease is that the public access is assured here. We've entered into an agreement here with Long Beach, Jackson County, Pass Christian, Bay St. Louis, all of them, so that you have local control of the harbors," said MS Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

Long Beach officials, along with many other coastal leaders, have been opposed to the tidelands leases on harbors.  They say they want to keep the money generated from harbors within the city.

"We have originally, and still somewhat, didn't necessarily think we needed a lease as a municipality, but as we moved in the process it seems we must have one," said Long Beach Mayor Billy Skellie.

With plans for harbor improvements on the horizon, Long Beach officials found they ran the risk of losing valuable grants and permits that depend on the lease being in place.

"It means we can go forward on several important grants that we had in the mill that are starting to get time sensitive. We can get our approval for permits from the DMR, and the lease had to be in place to do that," said Skellie.

"It's been going on 15 years through the negotiation process," said Hosemann. "It's really an attribution to the administration and the mayor that they finally put this to a close and are moving on with the things that they ought to be moving on with."

Unlike lease with casinos, the harbor's tidelands lease is rent free for the city. Other cities that have signed the lease include Pass Christian, Ocean Springs, and Bay St. Louis.

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