Another Oil Drilling Debate Divides Coast - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

08/24/05

Another Oil Drilling Debate Divides Coast

The waters off the Gulfport coastline barely made a ripple. From Urie Pier, it was easy to spot a shrimp boat on the horizon. Beyond that boat were the barrier islands -- and the drilling controversy that suddenly clouded that view.

The view is something Martha Lock has enjoyed for most of her life.

"Something always has to give. And somebody is always going to be affected one way or the other," she said, referring to the drilling debate.

Lock has spent much of her life fishing off the Gulfport pier. So she's very aware of what could be docked in the Gulf of Mexico.

"You can't have it both ways. You can't have oil and the islands," she said. "Which is your preference?"

Fifteen stories above Lock's fishing spot, the Coast Chamber met in the Great Southern Club. Members heard a debate that tried to answer Mrs. Lock's question. Robert Wiygul represented the 12 Miles South Coalition, the group opposed to drilling near the islands.

"Do we want to take any amount of risk with these wilderness islands, with the quality of life, with the economy that we have now?" he asked. "Is that risk worth it?"

Joe Sims spoke for the drilling proposal.

"We wouldn't be doing anything we think that would endanger or change the quality of life on the coastline," Sims told the group.

To Martha Lock, the drilling debate reminds her of what it might have been like the first time somebody cut down a tree and built a house. She said somebody probably complained then. But nobody complains now. She favors drilling -- with a catch.

"In the end, I feel that they should, if it's going to be far enough out there, even if it's 20 miles away from the islands," she said.

Twenty miles is eight miles farther out than the 12 Miles South group proposed. It's so far out, it would make it almost impossible for Lock to see rigs while she's fishing off Urie Pier.

On Monday, members of the 12 Miles South Coalition said it could take another year to convince lawmakers that drilling near the barrier islands is a big mistake.

by Brad Kessie

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