HUD approves port restoration plan

JACKSON, Mississippi - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has accepted the State of Mississippi's revised plan to restore the Port of Gulfport, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Restoration work will elevate the Port to 25 feet above sea level, which will better protect the facility against storm surges.  The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) has allocated $570 million to rebuild the Port. "Rebuilding the Port of Gulfport stronger than before is essential to not only the economy of the Gulf Coast but the entire state," Governor Haley Barbour said.

"Like the coastal community, HUD recognizes how much this restoration plan will boost each component of our storm recovery plan, including our efforts to ensure people have good jobs to complement the $4 billion we've allocated to housing recovery."

MDA manages a $5.4 billion federal storm recovery package, which is administered by HUD. Composed of flexible federal Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), the program is a comprehensive recovery plan which includes almost $4 billion for housing recovery and another $1.4 billion dedicated to various economic development incentives and public works projects along the Coast. "Jobs and housing are inseparable parts of our comprehensive hurricane recovery plan," Governor Barbour said.

"And, this construction program is exactly the kind of job-generating public project consistent with the 'urban development' mission of HUD. It is a community development that can provide steady paychecks in distressed communities, which we recognize is particularly important during these uncertain economic times."

Throughout the summer of 2008, MDA and the Port Commission worked with CH2MHill, an internationally renowned port engineering and consulting firm, to revise the Port's master plan by including input from various segments of the Gulfport community. In accordance with HUD rules governing the expenditure of CDBG funds, MDA posted the revised plan for public comment earlier this month.

"We've been very encouraged by how well the community has embraced the revised master plan, since it was presented to the public back in September and adopted by the Port Commission in October," Port Commission Chairman Jim Simpson said.  "As this is a project to protect the Port and community from future storms, our goal is to move forward with the restoration as quickly as possible, particularly with our efforts to raise the Port well above Katrina's storm surge levels."