It's not certain what the new elevation will be for the Port of Gulfport, but we now know what it won't be. Mississippi State Port Authority Commissioners decided not to stick with a previous plan to raise the West Pier to as high as 25 feet.
"I do not want it said that the choice is between 25 and 10," said Jim Simpson, Commissioner. "It's between 25 and something less."
In the end, the State Port Authority chose to go with something less than a 25 foot elevation. Board President Lenny Sawyer said building up that high would delay the port's ability to welcome new tenants.
"We need to move forward. We need to get jobs," Sawyer said. "We need to get moving out and get this behind us."
Port Commissioners asked the port staff to present them with a report on November 8 showing how much time and money it would take to go from the current 10.5 average elevation to between 12 and 15 feet.
"We've done some initial analysis," said Joe Conn, Director of Port Restoration. "If you choose to go to 15 feet which actually we're talking 14 feet of fill then there's one foot of base material on top of that, to go to 14 feet of fill on the entire West Pier is around $15 million above what we have right now."
Commissioners said raising the elevation means better protection from storm surge, which would make current tenants happier and help attract new business.
"I think an upper limit of 15 feet and a lower limit of 12. I think that would be a good area to work in," Simpson said. "That's based on 15 being something our contractor told us he could reach in a relative quick period of time. Twelve or 14 being what some of our tenants said was comfortable for them."
Sawyer said, "I personally feel that if we get our elevation up to somewhere around 15 feet that's going to mean something to somebody that is bringing cargo to our port to be exported. I personally feel that if we get it up to 15 feet we'll be in good shape. "
Governor Phil Bryant said Tuesday's decision by commissioners not to elevate the West Pier to 25 feet was a good decision. He said we should now concentrate on better serving current tenants, attracting new business and creating an additional 1,200 jobs.
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