By the end of March, Biloxi should know who's going to rebuild its hurricane damaged fishing bridges. Both the bridge next to the IP Casino Resort and Spa, and the old Highway 90 bridge sustained catastrophic damage during Katrina. In the spring, FEMA will spend nearly $12 million to remove the bridge debris, and rebuild Biloxi's back bay fishing amenities.
For Richard Phillips, that will mean no longer doing his post Katrina fishing off concrete rip rap near Point Cadet.
"All the casinos they run you off the minute you step on the property," he said. "There's like no where you can fish."
Large pieces of his old fishing spot are submerged in the back bay. The Highway 90 fishing bridge next to the Palace Casino was no match for the powerful hurricane. Yet, 28 months after the storm, the damaged bridge hasn't been removed from the water.
"It's crazy. I just hope they rebuild it," said Phillips.
Frankie Duggan said Phillips' wish was about to come true.
"Real soon. Sixty to 90 days bids will be out on it," the port commission director said. "And hopefully, construction is going to start. And we'll have new bridges back designed just for handicapped fishermen."
Duggan's agency oversees the two back bay fishing bridges. Neither one has been touched since they became hurricane debris.
"I get calls I bet you once a week from elderly people that like to use bridges. When are you going to put the bridge back, am I going to live long enough to get on my bridge," he remarked. "Yes you will. We're getting ready to start it shortly."
FEMA now has eight million dollars earmarked to fix the Highway 90 bridge. And it has another three million dollars set aside to repair the bridge that once linked Biloxi and D'Iberville. Those grants are the perfect bait for the fishermen like Richard Phillips who will use the bridges "every time I'm not working. Every chance I get."
Frankie Duggan said the debris should be gone, and work to build sturdier bridges should begin in the spring.
Biloxi also maintains two piers along Highway 90. The coliseum pier got chewed up by Katrina. The few pilings that remain in the water provide a resting place for birds.
It's the same story down at the lighthouse pier. However, according to Duggan, FEMA has agreed to rebuild both those piers. And whenever that work finally gets the go ahead, he said the wooden pilings would be replaced by concrete beams.