Grand Bay Estuary Building Plans Announced

A Jackson County environmental gem will soon shine a little brighter, thanks to a nearly six million dollar federal grant.

The Department of Marine Resources received the grant to build permanent research and education facilities at the Grand Bay Reserve.

Grand Bay Estuary covers more than ten thousand acres of largely undeveloped, environmentally sensitive property.

"It is one of the pristine estuaries that we have along the northern Gulf of Mexico," said reserve manager, David Ruple.

The pristine preserve will soon include new permanent facilities. Classrooms and research labs will be built, thanks to a five point nine million dollar grant from the US Department of Commerce.

Dr.William Walker is with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

"This is an example of how a very diverse group of people can pull together and align themselves around an idea that is good for everybody," he said.

Mississippi State University's Dr. David Veal is part of a research committee that helps oversee the Grand Bay Reserve.

"I think you'll see over the next few years a facility like none other in this country. Of all the other reserves, I don't think you'll find any that will match this one in terms of facilities and operation," said Dr. Veal.

Grand Bay Estuary is a scenic mix of tidal marshes, maritime forest and wildlife.

"The refuge is in the process of expanding. We have about fourteen thousand acres under management right now, between twelve and fourteen thousand acres. We hope to expand up to about thirty five or forty thousand acres in the future," said Pon Dixson, with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

A growing number of scientists and students already visit Grand Bay Estuary for research. New facilities should enhance those numbers.

"We're growing down here. We have environmental concerns. And this area is going to provide a laboratory that will allow us to have the benefit of scientists throughout the country to advise us on what we can and can't do," said Jackson County senator, Tommy Moffatt.

Researchers will address environmental concerns, while the public will continue to enjoy the natural beauty and recreational benefits of Grand Bay Reserve.

The building project at Grand Bay Estaury should be finished in the next three years.