SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - As cities on the Coast wait for an emergency declaration on Hurricane Zeta to qualify for FEMA reimbursements, one rebuilding project is getting underway, but it is to repair damage from Hurricane Nate in 2017.
Federal red tape required to get the Lake Mars Pier rebuilt with concrete delayed the project, but the new pier will be much more hurricane resistant.
“It’s got concrete pilings going in with heavy gauge lumber tying all that in,” said Jackson County District 5 Supervisor Randy Broussard. “So it will definitely withstand a lot better in hurricanes than existing aged wood piling pier. "
The Lake Mars Pier will cost more than $700,000 to build, easily five times what a wooden pier bridge would cost. While a wooden pier likely would have rebuilt by now, Broussard said it also would have likely been damaged by Hurricane Zeta, starting the cycle over again.
That’s what the city of Biloxi wants when they rebuild the lighthouse pier.
The structure has been damaged and rebuilt multiple times since Hurricane Katrina, and the mayor said he is ready to stop that cycle.
“FEMA has already rebuilt that pier so many times, so let’s try to take another route,” said city spokesman Vincent Creel. “What he wants to see there is something that’s resilient. and a resilient pier, you look 200 yards away at the I-110 loop. It’s a concrete pier with boards. That’s what he wants to see done.
The I-110 Loop pier does have some damage, but it pales in comparison to the damage done to the Lighthouse Pier by the 2020 hurricane season.
Most local government leaders will agree the quality is worth the wait and expense.
While residents in Jackson County are frustrated at the time it took to get the Lake Mars project started, Broussard is sure the new pier should prove worth the wait.
“It took a little more time, but it’s going to be a way better product,” he said. Construction is expected to be completed in Spring 2021
Broussard said it took a lot of negotiating with FEMA to build back stronger. Normally FEMA will only pay to replace what was lost in a storm.
“And at the end of the day, we probably won’t ever be reimbursed by FEMA ever again on this new pier,” Broussard said. “Which, if it’s built right like all the other concrete piers, you won’t need any reimbursement because it will have very little damage.”
Biloxi Mayor Andrew “Fofo” Gilich is ready to take a new path.
“The city has had to rebuild this pier several times since Hurricane Katrina, that’s something we don’t want to have to do again,” Creel said. “We’re going to have a new pier there, it’s going to be a resilient pier.
“The bottom line is, though, when you go back to build differently, you’ve got a whole new set of standards and criteria, and as you can see from other cases, it takes a while to do that,” he added.
A city of Gulfport spokesperson said the city wanted to rebuild piers stronger after Hurricane Katrina, but FEMA was not willing to pay the additional costs. However, after a cost-benefit analysis, FEMA did agree to rebuild the former Westside Pier with concrete pilings after it was damaged by Hurricane Isaac in 2012. It was later named in honor of the late City Councilwoman Libby Milner Roland after it was built in 2015.
That pier suffered minimal damage in Hurricane Zeta.