This article is excerpted from Wave Maker's News, our quarterly update on all things water in the Gulf of Mexico, check out the full newsletter here.
Mississippi has a long history of taking federal dollars for something good like environmental restoration or low-income housing and spending it on something environmentally damaging. One of the most dramatic examples is the over $1 billion in Katrina relief Housing and Urban Development grant money that went to unnecessary port expansions and new utility plants instead of towards directly helping victims of the disaster. Hence, it was not surprising to hear that Mississippi is going to receive a Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) grant to expand the harbor at Long Beach. The CIAP program is meant to distribute revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling to coastal states for the conservation and protection of coastal and marine areas. To justify this project, the state’s Department of Marine Resources claimed that the harbor expansion is actually “marine conservation,” which is very curious since this project will cause significant harm to the marine environment.
Through various communications with the Bureau on Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (formerly the embattled Minerals Management Service) and Mississippi DMR, GRN has learned some disturbing information about the Long Beach project. Mississippi was repeatedly told by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) that harbor projects would not be approved in a CIAP implementation plan. The state’s congressional delegation put pressure on MMS to approve the harbor projects, but MMS ultimately refused. The state finally removed these projects and submitted a plan that was approved by MMS on December 31, 2008, without the harbor expansions.
Last year, during the BP disaster and the restructuring of MMS into the Bureau on Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), Mississippi re-submitted the Long Beach project in an amendment to the approved plan. Amid the chaos of the restructuring, the harbor expansion project was approved.
The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources cautioned the Gulf Restoration Network that the Long Beach project is very political. Nevertheless, the GRN speaks truth to power and we will continue to ask hard questions about how federal conservation dollars are being spent.