BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Governor Phil Bryant came to South Mississippi on Tuesday to make a big announcement.
"I am pleased today and excited to announce $114 million in restoration projects for the Coast," Bryant said.
The governor opened the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality's Restoration Summit talking about 15 different projects focusing on water quality, marine resources, conservation efforts and economic development in the three coastal counties.
"These projects will continue our efforts to ensure funds are spent in the most effective and strategic ways to restore and enhance our natural resources and our economy following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill," Bryant said.
The projects are funded by three sources: The RESTORE Act (Bucket 1 $27.34 million and Bucket 3 $49.8 million), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation ($16.1 million), and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment ($21 million). By category, the funding for water quality totals $60 million, $27.3 million for marine resources, $18.3 million for coastal habitat conservation and restoration and $8.64 for support of the economy.
While most of the $114 million will go towards the environment and protecting natural resources, the governor did make an announcement regarding economic development at the Coliseum and Convention Center - $3.52 million will target site improvement here at the facility with the goal of the possibility of attracting a hotel to the facility.
"This has got to be the anchor. This is will people will come for larger conventions. We have every amenity anyone would want and anyone would find around the country. We have to have an anchor hotel here and make sure the convention center is state of the art and we're taking steps to make sure that happens," said Bryant.
According to Coliseum Director Matt McDonnell, it's premature to announce exactly how that money will be used.
RESTORE Act Projects:
Mississippi Gulf Coast Water Quality Improvement Program (Two projects -- $45 million and $11 million) -- This program will begin to identify and repair the areas along the coast that are having issues with water quality. With this initial investment, there is an expected decrease in the number of beach advisories.
University of Southern Mississippi Oyster Hatchery ($7.7 million) – The money will fund the acquisition of an oyster hatchery and research center. The hatchery is state of the art and will be operated by the University of Southern Mississippi.
Pascagoula Oyster Reef Relay and Enhancement ($3.5 million) – The enhancement will invest money in relaying oysters from unharvestable reefs to harvestable reefs and using the best science to select locations and to maximize oyster production.
North Rail Connector Planning Assistance ($550,000) -- This project is the number one economic development priority in Jackson County. The funds will pay for planning, strategizing and permitting needs that will move the rail connector forward.
NOARC ($2.75 million) – The National Oceans and Applications Research Center is designed to create the sky-to-sea market in Mississippi. It will attract new industries for environmental monitoring to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and establish an area for them to demonstrate their technologies.
Salvation Army Center of Hope ($1.32 million) -- The Center for Hope will bolster workforce development for the Coast. Located in North Gulfport, it will provide activities such as job skills for the labor force so that people have a better opportunity to invest in themselves and their families.
Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center ($3.52 million) -- The Coliseum and Convention center has the capacity to be a world-class facility and attract larger conference audiences. In order to do this, the coliseum needs to make site improvements. This project will support capacity improvements at the facility.
Compatibility, Coordination, and Restoration Planning (Two projects totaling$1.8 million) – Funds support of restoration planning.
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Projects:
Mississippi Marine Mammal and Turtle Conservation, Recovery and Monitoring Program ($9.9 million) – This project will invest over $9.9 million in dolphins and sea turtles and will help its partners lead the Gulf in restoration and research. This project will also help establish Mississippi State University as a leader in marine veterinary science.
It is a partnership among Mississippi State, the University of Southern Mississippi, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.
Coastal Bird Stewardship in Mississippi ($6.2 million) – This provides $6.2 million for coastal bird assessment and stewardship of the species and its habitat. Partners are Mississippi State, National Audubon Society, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.
Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Projects:
Graveline Bay ($11 million) – Money will be used to purchase key tracts to conserve habitat and invest in restoration at Graveline Bay. The project will protect wildlife for generations to come.
Grand Bay ($6 million) – This project fulfills the same purpose as the Graveline Bay investment.
Upper Pascagoula River Nutrient Reduction Alternatives ($4 million) -- An investment of $4 million will improve water quality on the Pascagoula River, one of most important rivers in the state and the southeast.
Comprehensive information about all of Mississippi's restoration efforts can be found at www.restore.ms.