OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - It's usually a quiet, peaceful educational setting at the Gulf Coast Research Lab, a branch of the University of Southern Mississippi. Not so much these days with saws and drills whirring away.
The docking piers are being completely re-done, new bulkheads are being installed, and dredging is underway as well to make way for the newly acquired large research vessel, the Jim Franks. The work doesn't come cheap, according to GCRL Associate Director Read Hendon.
"The project is a little over $200,000. It's funded with tidelands access funds, so we're certainly grateful to our state legislature and our coastal delegates for allocating those funds to us," Hendon said.
This isn't your typical construction project. Anytime you working either one the water, or near the water, you have to take some extra special precautions.
"You just have to make sure to keep your barge clean, keep all you tripping hazards out of the way, a clean work area. Make sure your cords don't get in the water while you're using power tools so you don't get electrocuted," carpenter Ricky Dobrowski explained.
Meanwhile, up the road at the Cedar Point site, work is continuing on the new Marine Education Center. The $16 million project is paid for by FEMA, and includes classrooms, a public exhibit area, administrative offices, and an outdoor pavilion overlooking Davis Bayou. This is all being done with Mother Nature in mind.
"We've done very little filling on this property," Marine Education Director Chris Snyder said. "Everything we've cleared are as few trees as possible. We've tried to maintain the biological integrity of the site as well as provide a nice place for people to come learn."
Both projects represent something very important for USM and the lab, according to Hendon.
"We do see tremendous growth here on the Gulf Coast with our marine programs and the GCRL Department of Marine Science. Really, that's kind of the future I think for the university."
Work on the pier project is scheduled to be complete by late summer. The educational complex at the Cedar Point site won't be ready to open until Spring 2017.