When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the State Port at Gulfport, the facility's lucrative chicken export business was wiped out. The storm's tidal surge destroyed all the freezers at the port. Now the Port Authority is busy working on plans to bring that business back.
The Mississippi State Port Authority took that issue up at a meeting Monday morning. Port Commissioners voted to move forward with plans to move the freezers to land that they call the inland property site on 33rd Street, north of 28th avenue.
Port Authority President Jim Simpson said now that it's been decided to elevate the port to only 14 feet, this is the only alternative.
"The height the ports going to be will not support the freezers. It's going to have to be off site if we're going to protect Gulfport residents from tidal surge that brings chickens all over."
Some concerned citizens appealed to the Port Authority to study the proposal, because according to a report from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the former Gulfport Fertilizer Plant site has contaminated groundwater and could pose environmental dangers to the surrounding community.
"There's arsenic there, lead there and the deed is restricted for a lot of uses. It has naturally occurring radioactive material," said Howard Page with the Steps Coalition.
Commissioners voted to consider all the variables and agreed to hold public hearings and examine all the scientific evidence. They wanted to make it clear that the plan is in the preliminary stages.
"I promise the community will be involved and heard. We've seen the reports and we get it. We ask you to give us credit for being concerned. We live here to. We're concerned about our neighbors and being cautious about moving forward," said Simpson.
Page walked away from the meeting with mixed feelings.
"I was comforted that he acknowledged all the problems. But we're just going to spend a lot of money on lawyers and consultants and come to the conclusion that it's not an appropriate location for these activities."
Port officials will make a final decision after holding public meetings and studying the plan further.
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