HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The debate over raising the State Port at Gulfport to an elevation of 25 feet will be settled soon.
Governor Phil Bryant recently questioned the benefit of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on elevating the port. Port leaders gave Harrison County supervisors an update Monday on port restoration plans.
Raising the port's elevation to protect it against future storm surge has been a cornerstone of the port's post-Katrina restoration plan. But after Governor Bryant voiced those concerns, the port's own consultants are re-thinking that 25 foot elevation idea.
"We have had probably one of the busiest projects on the U.S. Gulf of Mexico going on. It's a dirt work project to elevate the West Pier of our port, to again, mitigate the effects of another storm," Port Director Don Allee told county supervisors.
Elevating the port to 25 feet has been a key component of the port's post-Katrina restoration plan. But after Governor Bryant questioned whether deepening the ship channel might make more sense, port leaders are reviewing and re-grouping.
"And that requires us to re-visit, well, if you stay at grade, for us 11 feet above sea level, what is that impact on the project? What is that impact on the future of mitigating storms? Preparing for storms? Evacuating your port?" said Allee.
Supervisors asked: Could part of that 570 million be re-allocated for deepening the channel?
The port director said that may be difficult.
"So, I presume it's not just a simple matter of y'all taking that money and saying, 'Well, I think we'll go over here and do this.' I assume that's a problem?" Supervisor Marlin Ladner asked.
"To go back and say, 'We'd like to use some of this for dredging'. I just don't know how that conversation would go," said Allee.
As for the elevation issue, the port's consultants are reviewing that decision to see if other options might make more sense.
"We have asked our consultants to have their senior management review our plans and look at exactly what we're doing right now. And situations change. And the situation has changed some of our priorities. And we're looking at that right now," said Port Restoration Director Joe Conn.
Whatever the outcome, port leaders say the future is promising.
"We're the third busiest container port in the gulf, behind Houston is number one. New Orleans is number two and we're still number three, even with the effects of the storm and a major construction project going on," said Allee.