BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - After dealing with storm damage, months of being displaced, and dredging delay, shrimpers now have a permanent place to dock their vessels. The Biloxi Commercial Harbor has reopened, just in time for the 2013 shrimp season. Shrimpers are pleased to finally see the harbor getting back in business.
It was more work than play on Memorial Day as shrimpers prepared for the blessing of the fleet and the upcoming shrimp season.
"We're just working on an ice hole between the engine room and the ice hole, put a wall up in there. We're redoing the whole boat, painting here, working there, scraping this," said Miral Nelson.
Nelson is excited about his recent purchase of the Lady Vera. He is also thrilled about finding a permanent place to drop anchor. Nelson is one of 20 shrimpers who have returned to the newly-restored Biloxi Commercial Harbor, right behind the Hard Rock parking garage.
"It helps a lot because when we first got here, we didn't have no power. If we had to get water, it's all the way at the end of the pier. Now, we got power, water, nice big pier. It's nice," said Nelson.
The harbor features a total of 55-slips, along with concrete piers, new pilings, and it's deeper than before. The restoration project started in early 2012, but work came to a halt because of a disagreement over the length of the pilings, which pilings should be replaced, and what to do with the dredge spoils.
During the construction, some boats had to dock temporarily at the Point Cadet Marina, while others moved to the Small Craft Harbor.
"About time I have a place to park. Before, I park everywhere around. Now they fix it up, let me in, and it looks good," said Biloxi shrimper Ran Bui.
"They told me it'll take about a year, and it's been a little longer. So we all waited and it turned out real pretty, nice," said Nelson.
Shrimpers remember how the Katrina-ravaged harbor was described as dangerous and an eyesore. Now, they have a cleaner, safer place to work, especially when they sell their fresh catch at the docks. And they look forward to seeing other shrimpers come back home.
"I have a place to park to get in and out easy. Yeah, I'm happy to be back," said Bui.
The $2.4 million project was funded by FEMA.