Pacagoula River, between Pascagoula and Gautier. Photo credit: GRN and Southwings.Two weeks ago, I attended a roundtable, hosted by the local Chamber of Commerce in Jackson County, Mississippi, that was focused on how local government leaders would like to use BP fine money coming to the Gulf through the RESTORE Act. Many a money-hungry politician made proposals, but environmental restoration didn’t even seem to have a seat at the table. It’s becoming clear that our role as a watchdog over RESTORE spending is going to be difficult, and absolutely necessary.At the meeting, Jackson County city managers, mayors, and one Board supervisor shared their wish lists for economic development projects. Precious few of the projects had any connection to improving the Gulf’s ecosystem, and many would actively harm it. Perhaps the most egregious were Supervisor John McKay’s proposals, which included expanding the Trent Lott Airport, and supporting the construction of a $2 billion petroleum coke processing plant in Moss Point. The proposed 115 acre site for the plant, formerly the home of an International Paper facility, includes floodplains and wetlands along the Pascagoula and Escatawpa Rivers. You can read more about the meeting here. When Congress passed the RESTORE Act with bipartisan majorities, their intention wasn’t to create an economic development slush fund for the Gulf States – it was to restore the national treasure that is the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem. Unfortunately, it seems many local leaders didn’t get that memo. Click here to tell the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council to not let RESTORE dollars be hijacked by politics as usual.Raleigh Hoke is GRN’s Mississippi Organizer.