Can Offshore Drilling And The Barrier Islands Coexist? - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

03/17/04

Can Offshore Drilling And The Barrier Islands Coexist?

A beautiful sunny day on the Gulf Islands Seashore pier gives you a perfect view of the Mississippi Sound and the barrier islands. Now imagine seeing gas drilling platforms on the horizon. One of the island rangers says they would stick out like a sore thumb. 

"Oh, they definitely would. It would not be the same view that the public gets out there right now," says Chris Ryan.

The view of the islands is one of their biggest selling points. 

Ryan says, "They come out there for solitude, for primitive camping. They go out there to boat and fish, so it would not be the same kind of experience having the rigs, the oil rigs right next to the islands."

The Gulf Islands Superintendent says while they don't officially oppose drilling south of the islands, but they are concerned. 

"I realize the state did retain the mineral rights to the one mile area around the islands that they transferred to us. Where there's certain restrictions, I think could be exploited or removed but we have concerns," says Jerry Eubanks. 

Some of those, Eubanks says, are the long term effects drilling could have. 

"The islands are very flat as you know and just an inch difference in elevation could make a world of difference in surface area, the potential for accidental spills, this type of thing and noise related to boats and helicopters."

State law already allows offshore drilling, but in recent years, no one's even asked for a drilling lease. The drilling bills in the House and Senate would transfer control of leases from the Mississippi Department of environmental Quality, which is the state's environmental watchdog, to the Mississippi Development Authority.

State lawmakers took no action Wednesday on the drilling proposals.

byMarcia Hill

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