Public comments sought for Port expansion - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Public comments sought for Port expansion

Port of Gulfport (Photo Source: WLOX) Port of Gulfport (Photo Source: WLOX)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

What’s more important? 3,300 jobs, water quality, or easy access to the gulf for local boat owners? Those factors must be weighed the next 30 days by people with a vested interest in the Port of Gulfport’s expansion.

In late October, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) of the port expansion proposal. That draft reviews the next phase of the $600 million port project.  

Why is this report important? Because before construction can begin, port leaders need permits to expand West Pier, expand East Pier, fill in the North Harbor, and build an eastern breakwater. The final version of the Environmental Impact Statement will determine if the Corps issues, modifies, conditions or denies those permits.

The Corps' 500 page analysis details an expansion project first pitched in 2010.  

According to the report, if this phase of the project is approved, approximately 282 acres of estuarine mud and sand bottom in the Mississippi Sound would be dredged and/or filled for the construction of wharfs, bulkheads, terminal facilities, container storage areas, intermodal container transfer facilities, and construction of a breakwater.

The port's vision is to add 155 acres to West Pier, and 14 acres to East Pier.  Construction teams would also create nine acres at the North Harbor, 85 acres in the Turning Basin, and 18 acres where a breakwater would be built.

The Corps' analysis looks 45 years into the future. It says if the port builds what leaders propose, vessel traffic will be up to 7.8 daily trips. If no action is taken, just 4.6 ships a day will dock at port terminals. The report notes that “recreational boats using the Gulfport Yacht Club and Gulfport Small Craft Harbor may encounter delays while yielding to larger ships” in the shipping channel.

Jobs associated with the port expansion have been debated by people for and against this project for several years. The DEIS says expanding the port "would create direct Port-related jobs and boost the local economy." The number of full time jobs listed in the report is 3,331.  
"In addition, there would be short-term economic growth and employment during construction," the report says.

The Corps' findings analyze socioeconomic factors. For instance, a chart in section two of the report says the expansion will "generate impacts to traffic in census tract block groups with a higher minority percentage than the city population but other impacts to minority populations are not anticipated."

These findings come from one section of the Corps’ analysis. To read the entire report, click here: http://www.sam.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/PortofGulfportExpansionProject.aspx

Public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement will be accepted until December 14. The Corps’ will hold a public hearing December 8 in Gulfport.  The report’s authors will explain their findings. And the public will have a chance to share their opinions. Those comments will be reviewed before the Corps rules on the Port of Gulfport’s permit request. 

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