Haley Barbour's biggest post-Katrina disappointment - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Haley Barbour's biggest post-Katrina disappointment

Former governor Haley Barbour Former governor Haley Barbour

Haley Barbour was back in South Mississippi for an event at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum in conjunction with Biloxi's Katrina+10 series. The man who was Governor of Mississippi when Hurricane Katrina roared ashore in 2005 talked about where the Coast is along the road to recovery 10 years after the storm.

Barbour was asked what his biggest disappointment is regarding the rebuilding of the Coast.

"That we haven't been able to get the ship channel deepened for the Port of Gulfport. The port can be much bigger and much more of a powerful economic engine for the Coast, but not as long as we have a 36-foot channel. The ships coming through the Panama Canal after its expansion will be looking for deeper channels and larger ports. I hope we'll get that done," Barbour said.

As governor, Barbour directed $570 million in federal Katrina recovery money to an ambitious port restoration and expansion project. In April, the ship channel was dredged to 36 feet.

Barbour's desire to deepen the channel to 40 feet in order to accommodate larger ships that will travel through the expanded Panama Canal next year is shared by Port Director Jonathan Daniels.

"We'd like to see at least 42 feet. We're pushing to 45 feet and even 47 feet. The Army Corp of Engineers is doing a study. They're evaluating anywhere from 36 feet to 47 feet," said Daniels.

Deepening the channel means environmental approval and funding. Both begin and end with the federal government.

"You get authorized by the Corp of Engineers and Congress for that depth. You have the depth, and then you have to go after the money," Daniels said.

According to Daniels, the port is waiting for an environmental impact statement to be completed.

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