New law could speed up process to get spillway disaster relief
PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. (WLOX) - The opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway in 2019 was bad enough. Waiting for federal relief has just rubbed salt water into the wounds.
“We have fishermen going out of business every single day that we fail to give them relief,” said Ryan Bradley, Executive Director of the Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United.
None of those in Mississippi who suffered financially have received any of $21 million given to the state from the federal government.
The damage caused may never be repaired.
“We’re losing our culture as time goes by that we’re not getting this relief,” Bradley said. “We’re just losing things that we’ll never get back.”
The problem with the relief money is not with the state.
“The state is very good,” Bradley said. “The DMR does a great job of getting that information very quickly to the federal authorities. It’s the federal authorities that we’re having the problem with that’s taking a lot of time reviewing this information and approving these requests.”
But just like the recent federal court ruling that regulates future openings of the Bonnet Carre Spillway, there has been another win for those affected by the disaster. As part of the omnibus spending package that was signed into law in December, the Fishery Resource Disasters Improvement Act is designed to speed up the process.
“We’ve had a spend plan at the secretary for over two years,” Bradley said. “This law will make it where it speeds it up to 90 days.”
Another headline from the new law: state agencies are now capped at 5% of the money received for administration of the federal funds.
“That’s the big deal,” he said. “That’s going to save a lot of money for fishing communities.”
Those fishing communities include the charter boat industry. Ronnie Daniels said, just like others in this line of work, he suffered a big loss after the spillway opening.
“It cost a lot of people a lot of money,” he said.
This new law is a big deal.
“Anything that our legislators and our elected officials can do to help and to better the way that we make our living and to provide support to us in times like that, that’s all-good stuff.”
The Spillway disaster in 2011 resulted in about $11 million coming to the State of Mississippi.
But it was in 2020 when the DMR received federal approval to provide $1 million in direct assistance to affected commercial and charter fishermen and seafood processors.
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