County Approves Controversial Boat Launch Project - - The News for South Mississippi

County Approves Controversial Boat Launch Project

Those who spoke about the proposal all agree Biloxi needs more boat launches. But the location is what's being debated.

The City of Biloxi and the port commission want to build four launch ramps with piers and a rock jetty at the foot of Veteran's Avenue. So far, more than $845,000 is committed to the $1 million plan.

Nearby property owners say it's a bad spot to develop.

"We're talking about going in there and making a project like this that is just absolutely not environmentally sound," hotel manager John Bosch said.

But not everyone thinks it's a bad idea.

"We need it," Biloxi resident Marvin Flowers said. "It's going to look good, and it's going to enhance this beach."

The Harrison County Supervisors heard both sides of the debate. The attorney for the nearby Emerald Beach Hotel says there are 18 hotels that could lose business because tourists won't use the beach near a boat launch. He also says the board needs a more final plan before voting.

"What they've given you is a nice drawing, but they have not, by their own words, not completed what they need to complete to you for you to have an approval," Billy Guice said.

The engineer who drew up the plans says they are smaller than the original, and are still being drafted. Dreux Seghers reminded the board, it doesn't have the last say.

"The biggest hurdle is going to be getting the permitting to the project once this site has been located, and the public will have the opportunity to comment on this project well beyond what the supervisors approved. This isn't going to mean we start construction," Seghers said.

The Biloxi City Council has already approved the project. Council member Charles Harrison says getting started makes it easier to get the rest of the money to finish construction.

"We're looking at a million, three and we're a little bit over two thirds funded, so we're right and ready to go and this is a do-able, viable project," Harrison said. "Everybody's been talking about for a number of years now, and this is the closest we've ever come to actually get it started."

Supervisor Connie Rockco says there must be a balance between the environment and development. That's why she moved to get the plan going.

"We have to have more amenities for the public use, and I think if it's designed properly, that it can be done," Rockco said.

Opponents say they're not surprised by the board's approval of the plan. They say they will voice their concerns at the Department of Marine Resources and Corps of Engineers public hearings.

The supervisors reminded both sides they have no jurisdiction over the jetty since it will be in the water. That's where the county's jurisdiction stops.

By Marcia Hill

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