Harrison Co. supervisors oppose oyster farming at Henderson Point

Harrison Co. supervisors oppose oyster farming at Henderson Point
It was a packed house at Monday's Harrison County board meeting, where supervisors revisited the subject of oyster farming. (Photo source: WLOX)
It was a packed house at Monday's Harrison County board meeting, where supervisors revisited the subject of oyster farming. (Photo source: WLOX)

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - Debate continues over the future of oyster aquaculture on the coast. At issue is a proposal from the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources for a 24 acre oyster farm "between the bridges" at Henderson Point. Many neighbors don't want it there, and the controversial issue came before Harrison County supervisors at Monday's board meeting.

"The governor would like by the year 2025 to have 500,000 sacks of oysters grown in Mississippi. And it takes aquaculture to do that," said Dr. Ed Cake, a biologist and member of the Governor’s Oyster Council.

The proposed 24 acre oyster farm "between the bridges" on the bay, would help boost the supply of Mississippi oysters for a growing restaurant market.

"You know, it's a shame that most of me and my fellow restauranteurs are spending money outside our state. And I hate to see it," said Rob Stinson, who operates six restaurants along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Many Henderson Point neighbors say they'd hate to see a commercial oyster operation impede their view of the water or sunset. Henry Laird is an attorney representing three groups of land owners.

"A 24 acre farm with almost a thousand pilings, or any size commercial operation which takes place in these waters, it's going to effectively rezone the uplands," Laird told the board.

Small oyster farms, like those near Dauphin Island, Alabama, are very likely to locate somewhere in Harrison County. The FDA has approval over where water quality is good enough to sustain such aquaculture.

"We only have a very small footprint of where we can harvest oysters; 95 percent of that is in Harrison County. And so, oyster aquafarms will absolutely be in Harrison County, because there's nowhere else to put 'em," DMR Executive Director Jamie Miller told supervisors.

Supervisors briefly debated the wording of any resolution.

"If we say that it's excluding any tourist or residential, you just knocked out the whole Gulf Coast," said Angel Kibler-Middleton.

"Make sure that this site is in this resolution, in opposition to that location," urged Supervisor Marlin Ladner.

In the end, they sided with neighbors, passing a resolution against the site "between the bridges," but supporting the DMR's efforts to promote aquaculture.

The DMR will hold a public hearing on the issue in the next few weeks. The Army Corps of Engineers has the final say on whether a permit for the oyster farm project will be issued.

Copyright 2016 WLOX. All rights reserved.