GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It has been more than a year and a half since Hurricane Isaac damaged the Gulfport fishing piers. Now, the city is one step closer to repairing them and putting them back into service.
The city has selected an engineering firm for the project. This is good news for fishermen and residents alike.
"We need more fishing piers to fish off of," said Ronald Johnson.
He and his wife, Brenda Johnson, have fished the Gulfport waters for more than a decade. Not having proper fishing piers on the Gulf forced them to move their hobby elsewhere.
"We didn't have anywhere to fish, so we had to come out back and Brim fish, but we can go back to salt water fishing," said Brenda.
One of the piers in disrepair is the Ken Combs Pier just off of Courthouse Road. Bear Oler still frequents the area after 25 years of fishing, even though it's a little harder now.
"It takes away from the guys fishing, really. If you ain't got a boat, all you can do is fish the bank," said Oler.
Now, FEMA has released the biological opinion for the four piers needing repairs. This gives the city the green light it needs to move forward with the project.
"Oh, that's good. That's good, because a lot of people like to go out on the piers even if they're not fishing," said Oler.
People like Charles and Merl Morman, for instance. Charles is originally from Gulfport, but hasn't been back in about two years. The couple drove from Jackson just to visit what he remembered as a beautiful pier.
"We came down here to go and walk on it," said Charles.
"Yeah, we looked and said, there's the pier, let's go, then we can't go," Merl chimed in.
They were turned away by police barricades, but hearing that the piers would be repaired, the couple already wanted to start planning another trip to the coast.
"Oh, that's great, that's great. We look forward to coming back," said Merl.
The contract with the engineering firm is still in negotiations, but once it is signed, it could be another nine to 10 months before the piers are completed, if all goes as planned.