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Bonnet Carré Spillway disaster relief could be on the way soon

Updated: Apr. 20, 2021 at 10:00 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s been two years since the Bonnet Carré Spillway opened, dumping trillions of gallons of fresh water into the Mississippi Sound, resulting in an environmental and economic disaster on the Gulf Coast.

Many who make their livelihoods on the water are still feeling the impacts, but relief could soon be on the way.

At Gulfport Marina Bait and Tackle, shop manager Rosie Mullen is faced with a daily challenge to make sure fishermen have the bait they need.

“It’s just been tough, it’s tough for everybody who works out on the water,” said Mullen.

Those tough times are expected with tropical storms and hurricanes, and the 2019 opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway threw businesses dependent on the water another curveball. Executive Director of the Department of Marine Resources Joe Spraggins hasn’t forgotten about their struggles, saying relief is still needed.

”We know that they’re suffering, we know that they need the funds, and we want to keep them in business because we don’t want to lose that fishery,” Spraggins said.

The Commission on Marine Resources met on Tuesday to finalize requests to the federal government for $21 million in Bonnet Carré disaster relief. The money will go toward improving conditions for oyster harvesting, exploring Bonnet Carré mitigation procedures as well as money directly into the pockets of fishermen and businesses affected by the spillway opening.

”They were already proven a loss because we had went back and worked with them over the last several years since the 2019 Bonnet Carré spill,” Spraggins said.

That money to help offset some of the losses can’t get here soon enough for people like Mullen.

”There has been times during this past season that we have almost shutdown because business has been so slow, so we can use all the help we can get,” Mullen said.

Spraggins expects the money to become available in May and he plans to begin distributing it during the summer months.

”As soon as we get the ok by the federal government through NOAA, we will go forward and start setting up for people to be able to come in and be able to apply for their funds,” Spraggins said.

According to Spraggins, in the coming months, you’ll be able to check the Department of Marine Resources website for information on how to apply for the funds.

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