North Gulfport groups gear up for wetlands appeal

Updated: Oct. 29, 2019 at 8:17 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Residents of North Gulfport gathered Tuesday night to learn the latest in what has become a legal battle over a wetlands permit in their community. The state Department of Environmental Quality approved the permit in August.

The Port of Gulfport wants to build a 16-acre inland staging area for military cargo on the land located north of 33rd Street and East of 34th Avenue. But two community organizations are appealing the ruling and have enlisted an Ole Miss law professor to handle their case.

About 35 residents gathered at the Isiah Fredericks Community Center to listen to their attorney, Desiree Hensley, describe their case.

“The primary concern of this project would be that it’s filling in wetlands,” said Howard Page of the North Gulfport Community Land Trust. “And that results in loss of flood protection. In addition to flood risk, this is contaminated land. It’s contaminated with lead, arsenic and radioactive materials.”

The port contends that no contaminated runoff has been documented at the site.

Page and others say once the land is disturbed during construction, those chemicals will be released and will end up in Brickyard Bayou.

Ruth Story has spent years as a community activist in the area. She is co-founder and executive director of the Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization (EEECHO).

She sees this as a simple case of environmental racism.

“The effects of it will be long term,” she said before Tuesday’s meeting. “And so, no. It is not alright. It is never going to be alright to do other people what you don’t want done to you.”

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