Coastal Impact Assistance Program funds dozens of environmental projects

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - South Mississippi will soon receive millions of federal dollars to pay for park projects, new sewer lines and environmental education programs. But the money has nothing to do with the economic stimulus bill. It's part of an ongoing plan called the Coastal Impact Assistance Program.

Money from offshore oil and gas leases is funneled through Washington and back to the coastal states, including Mississippi. Nearly  $118,000,000 is coming to our state over the next four years.

The City of D'Iberville plans to build a park along a scenic section of the Tchoutacabouffa River. Nearly one million dollars in CIAP funds will help pay for it. The park is among 94 projects that federal money will help support in South Mississippi.

"These are for habitat protection and restoration. Land acquisition. Environmental education. Air quality. Smart growth," said Tina Shumate, listing the various purposes of CIAP projects.

Supervisors from each of the three coastal counties signed the CIAP paperwork during a ceremony at D'Iberville City Hall Thursday morning.

"Whether it's sewering Pearlington, to bike paths on our beautiful Gulf Coast and the beautiful gulf in Bay St. Louis and Hancock County. We truly thank everyone," said Hancock County supervisor Lisa Cowand.

"I think it's obvious that the gulf and the sound is an integral part of the Gulf Coast and its economic foundation. And the use of these CIAP funds will go a long way in preserving it," said Marlin Ladner, president of the Harrison County board of supervisors.

The Pascagoula River Audubon Center was created with the help of CIAP funding. Its director says programs aimed at preserving natural resources, help instill an important awareness about the significance and sensitivity of our coastal environment

"Even in the last 20 years or so the environment is right on the tips of peoples tongues. They at least have heard about it enough. They may not know as much as they would like to, but it is much higher in their consciousness," said Mark Lasalle.

Future CIAP projects include creating "greenways" along area rivers.

"They involve land acquisition along the Wolf River, the Biloxi River. Projects for conservation and greenways. We have all types of sewer projects in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties," said CIAP consultant, Elizabeth Barber.

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources is the lead state agency in charge of administering the CIAP funding.

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