Tidelands grant helps GCRL get ready for arrival of new vessel - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Tidelands grant helps GCRL get ready for arrival of new vessel

Work is about to get underway on the dock at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs in anticipation of the January arrival of a new research vessel. (Photo source: WLOX) Work is about to get underway on the dock at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs in anticipation of the January arrival of a new research vessel. (Photo source: WLOX)
OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) -

Work is about to get underway on the dock at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs in anticipation of the January arrival of a new research vessel. Officials said they're also considering other possible campus improvements that could help make accessing the water easier for the whole community. 

Ocean Springs Upper Elementary students returned from their trip on the water Thursday knowing a lot more about different types of marine life then when they set sail. Gabriel Shields, a parent whose son is interested in marine biology, said he's grateful for these educational boat rides from the Gulf Coast Research Lab.

"This is the Gulf Coast. Our whole life is the marine life," said Shields. "If these kids can learn a little bit about how to maintain their environment, it's all the better." 

A $225,000 tidelands grant will make the GCRL dock better by shoring up the bulkhead to stop an erosion problem. Officials said the work will also include some dredging and a reconfiguration of boat slips in anticipation of the arrival of a new vessel, the R/V Jim Franks. 

 "It's a 60-foot aluminum catamaran vessel. It will be very similar in capabilities to the Tom McIlwain. It will be twice as wide though, so it's going to be a real stable platform for us,” said GCRL Assistant Interim Director Read Hendon. “Obviously, being a marine laboratory we have to have nice, reliable vessels to be able to get out and conduct all the research that we do."

Officials say a second tideland grant is paying for a design study for an area adjacent to the dock where USM would like to see an expansion of the boat launch. 

"As it stands now, we provide access on the weekends only. The city and county are very interested in providing greater public access 24/7 for the boat launch," Hendon said. "We're neighbors here in Jackson County. We're part of Ocean Springs. In the spirit of being good neighbors, we want to assist the city and the county with expanding the public access and allowing more people to get out on the water for fishing or just general recreation." 

Gulf Coast Research Lab officials said they hope work will start on the bulkhead by December. They are not yet sure if the boat launch will have to be closed to the public once construction begins. 

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