HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A large crowd turned out at the Bay St. Louis Community Center on Wednesday for the first of three community conversations being held across the Coast by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.
MDEQ is calling them "community conversations" in hopes that residents understand how much their ideas matter when it comes to spending the $356 million allocated to Mississippi for Gulf restoration.
"We're going to take the visions and the values we receive at each of the meetings and put those into the comprehensive restoration plan," said Ebonye Allen.
Allen, who is the Restoration Coordinator for MDEQ, says this plan will be developed with the money received from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation established from the BP and Transocean settlement. The money will be allocated over the next five years in various increments.
"There is a plea agreement that lays out how the monies may be spent, and there is also a framework agreement that the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund has established," said Allen.
Allen says during these community conversations, they're encouraging people to look at the big picture, not to target certain projects they want to see done, but focus on things that would impact the community over a lifetime.
MDEQ will be hosting three meetings, one in each coastal county. Several Hancock County leaders were in attendance to make sure their ideas were heard.
"We want to restore, you know, our estuaries and just conserve our God given assets, because you know, once you lose those it's very hard to get them back," said Hancock County Board of Supervisors President Lisa Cowand.
As for the great turnout, Cowand says it speaks volumes about the community and shows how much Hancock County residents care about the Gulf.
The next meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 21, in Ocean Springs at the Fontainebleau Community Center. The third meeting will be at 4 p.m. Aug. 23, in Gulfport at the Handsboro Community Center.