Biloxi Set To Begin Rebuilding Public Piers

These days, only the seagulls flock to the lighthouse pier in Biloxi. Long a popular spot for fishermen, the structure is now a skeleton of boards and bolts. The coliseum pier is in similar shape. Katrina's surge washed away the deck boards, leaving a trail of pilings. Both public piers will be rebuilt.

"We were debating about putting all the money in the lighthouse, but it looks like we're going to go back with both of them right now," Frankie Duggan with the Biloxi Port Commission said.

The post-storm process has been the hold-up. A mountain of paperwork precedes any rebuilding.

"First you have to go through FEMA and get approval for the project," Duggan explained. "Then after the project has gotten approval, you have to do the engineering services. Then they have to review the engineering services and make sure everything is intact, then send it back to us and we put it out for bids. So yes, it's a lengthy process, but we're at the end of it. Thank God."

One public pier in Biloxi that's already finished is the Seafood Industry Museum pier where the schooners are docked. Construction crews were nearly finished with this new project when Katrina hit, so they were able to move quickly and make the necessary storm repairs.

"This is the first time I've stepped out on it," fisherman Raymond Seymour said.

Seymour took advantage of Monday's sunshine to try his luck from the schooner pier. He explained why rebuilding local fishing piers is important to him and many others in South Mississippi.

"A lot of people don't have boats and all. Me, I have two of them. I used to go in a boat. Now I'm old. Retired. Getting lazy," Seymour said.

There's more good news for fishermen who prefer casting a line from a bridge. FEMA will pay to rebuild both the Back Bay fishing bridge behind IP, and the old Biloxi-Ocean Springs fishing bridge next to the Palace Casino.

Duggan says work on the pier projects should begin by early summer. The work will also include repairing the storm damages at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor and Point Cadet Marina.

The piers are expected to be finished by the end of the summer season.