Coast mayors meet to discuss spillway impact

There is growing concern about the environmental impact of the Mississippi Sound from the second opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway in Louisiana.
Updated: May. 28, 2019 at 4:46 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - More dolphins and sea turtles are washing up dead on Coast beaches, including at least four dolphins Tuesday.

There is growing concern about the environmental impact of the Mississippi Sound from the second opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway in Louisiana, something that has never happened before.

All of this had led to an unprecedented meeting held in Biloxi Tuesday. The meeting was called by Biloxi mayor FoFo Gilich.

In all, ten mayors attended, from Pascagoula to Waveland, as well as other elected officials. Marine experts were also on hand to outline the problems and answer questions.

At the meeting, the news from scientists was not good.

Four dolphins washing up dead on our beaches just today. The blue crab harvest is down 35 percent. The oyster beds are effectively dead. Some are comparing this to another recent disaster.

“This is a very serious situation. I think it’s worse than the BP oil spill. We have 94 dolphins as of today and 141 sea turtles,” said Moby Solangi with the Institute For Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS).

The economy of the Coast is taking a beating, according to Waveland mayor Mike Smith.

“The seafood industry is suffering big time. And not only that, but the marine life too. We’re getting a lot of dolphins wash up on shore, a lot of other bigger fish, as well, and I think it’s time we get a grip on this,” Smith said.

Because of all the fresh water pouring into the sound, state agencies, like the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) are deeply involved.

“We have scientists working on it every day. We are testing waters. We’re testing anything we can to see what the outcome will be,” said DMR executive director Joe Spraggins.

There’s no doubt about the environmental impact, but there’s something else concerning for Long Beach mayor George Bass.

“The tourists that come in here. It may be their first time to be here on the Coast, and they see the water, and they go away with a bad impression. And this is not our water,” Bass said.

Satellite images show where the saltwater and silt is coming from. While there is no easy answer to the problem, the meeting set the groundwork for the future for Biloxi mayor Gilich.

”This is the beginning. We won’t come up with a final solution, but we can at least begin the definition of the problem,” he said.

The mayors all say they want a seat at the table when the decision is made to open the spillway. To that end, they’ll try and arrange a meeting with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, which oversees the spillway.

They also plan on taking a trip to Washington D. C. to meet with the state’s congressional delegation.

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