Corps EIS Still Being Debated

To build a shopping center the size of Gulfport's Crossroads, the Corps of Engineers Environmental Impact Statement would require what's called a regional impact study. The man who helped develop Crossroads says that would be an expensive requirement for any developer.

"That process could cost a developer in that size development a minimum of $250,000 to $1 Million because you have to look at all facets that the center may impact," says developer Brooks Holstein.

Engineer Bill Mitchell says that out of pocket costs could make it tough for developers to do business.

"What's it gonna require from them, and are there going to be additional costs that are possibly going to render projects in this area non-competitive with projects in other areas?"

Holstein says what bothers him most about the study is that it suggests that local governments aren't capable of overseeing and regulating their own growth and quality of life.

"The Corps, in its conclusion, said the Corps is the only agency that had the ability to even evaluate this, and I can't agree with that. This is our home and I think we all realize that we want to maintain our quality of life, and I don't really think we need a Corps Office in Mobile, Alabama advising us on how best to do that."

Mitchell doesn't completely agree, but he does say the Corps doesn't always give public officials and private developers credit for knowing what environmental rules they must follow.

"The public officials and the private developers are more sophisticated in terms of environmental safeguards that have to be built into projects, so that they're balancing the environment with the growth factor."

Mitchell says if new requirements are reasonable and applied the same to all projects, they may not be all bad.

The Corps will hold two public hearings, one in Biloxi and one in Bay St. Louis, late next month on the environmental statement.