Underwater noise pollution will cost Port of Gulfport - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Underwater noise pollution will cost Port of Gulfport

The port is about to build a new barge mooring system that will require the driving of large, steel pilings. (Photo source: WLOX) The port is about to build a new barge mooring system that will require the driving of large, steel pilings. (Photo source: WLOX)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

The most ridiculous regulation I've ever heard of. That's how one port commissioner described the National Fisheries Service requiring the Port of Gulfport to install a bubble curtain to prevent pile driving noise from harming fish and turtles.

After all the construction work at the port, the proposed building of a $3 million barge mooring system has sparked something new from the federal government.

“National Marine Fisheries is enforcing a sound component,” a port staff member informed the Port Authority board members.

What that means is the port will be required to install a bubble curtain to dampen the sound of driving steel pilings; sounds that could potentially kill fish or other marine life.

The device basically creates a wall of bubbles that serve to reduce the impact of underwater sound waves.

“What's a bubble curtain look like,” said board member Jim Simpson. “I mean, when it's finished, can we use it for something else?”

“They've never used one before. They've got to invent the damn thing apparently, because this is the most ridiculous provision I've ever heard of,” said Commissioner Bobby Knesal.

Knesal couldn’t get over the requirement.

“Somebody dreaming something up in an office. It just amazes me how we can waste money on something so stupid like that,” Knesal said.

“It's important issues, but the cost of these things is just staggering, and it's, it's frustrating,” said Simpson.

While this issue may be somewhat new to port commissioners, it's actually getting quite a lot of attention from NOAA. In fact, just 10 days ago, NOAA's Fisheries Service released something called the Ocean Noise Strategy Roadmap. It is a guidebook designed to help direct the agency and deal with this issue over the next decade.

The design cost alone for the bubble curtain is an estimated $12,000.

“We're only paying $12,000 to design it, but what is it going to cost for the contractors to implement it? I mean this is, whoever came up with that needs to be removed from the gene pool,” Knesal told his fellow board members.

Knesal requested a separate budget line item for the bubble curtain, so board members can see exactly what the final cost will be following the bid process.

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