Community groups hope for fresh start with port connector road - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Community groups hope for fresh start with port connector road design

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A two year legal fight ended with a two page judge's decision. The ruling set aside the permits issued to MDOT by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers until the Corps completes a new environmental assessment on a proposed port connector road. A two year legal fight ended with a two page judge's decision. The ruling set aside the permits issued to MDOT by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers until the Corps completes a new environmental assessment on a proposed port connector road.
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

It looks like it's back to the drawing board for plans on a new port connector road. This week a judge set aside permits allowing for the construction of a road connecting the Port of Gulfport to I-10. The judge sided with a land owner who sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers alleging not enough had been done to look at the true environmental impact.

A two year legal fight ended with a two page judge's decision. The ruling set aside the permits issued to MDOT by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers until the Corps completes a new environmental assessment on a proposed port connector road.

"I thought it was a great decision. I thought the ruling was fair," said Rose Johnson with North Gulfport Community Land Trust. "It's what I've always wanted from the very beginning to do an EIS, an environmental impact statement, to address some of our concerns."

The concerns about the port connector road include air pollution and noise. However, the North Gulfport Community Land Trust and the Steps Coalition said they are most alarmed by plans to fill in wetlands around Turkey Creek.

"We'd like them to look at some alternatives. There is an existing route that would not destroy 162 acres of wetlands that would increase flooding into a community that is already flooding," Johnson said. "We have serious concerns about flooding in the Forest Heights subdivision. About 60 homes experienced a lot of flooding recently. So any time you fill the wetlands, you take away our flood protection."

Both groups say they want to see a connector road built, but they believe it can be done in a way that helps the port without hurting Gulfport neighborhoods.

Howard Page of the Steps Coalition said, "We hope that this will not hurt the port. We want to see a port that creates jobs and we are very supportive of that. We want to work with the port, with the governor's office toward a good port that is safe and healthy for everyone and creates jobs."

Meanwhile, port officials said when the restoration project is complete, the port would need the new road to facilitate traffic but for the next four to six years it would not be a problem. Meanwhile, MDOT officials said although this is an MDOT project since the lawsuit was against the US Army Corps of Engineers, it will be up to Corps whether to appeal the ruling.

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