In 2007, the state of Mississippi was granted $600+ million in federal Katrina relief funds to solve sewage and water quality problems exposed by the storm. While much of this money will go to recovery projects, the state wants to use some of these taxpayer dollars to subsidize developers’ projects that threaten Mississippi’s streams, wildlife, and wetlands far from the storm zone! To make things worse, the state has violated federal law by not adequately analyzing the damage that the badly planned developments will have on the state’s environment.To fight against these threats against Mississippi, the Gulf Restoration Network is working two fronts: legal and bureaucratic.On September 8th, GRN held a press conference at the Dan Russell Federal Courthouse in Gulfport to discuss the notice of intent to sue letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Mississippi Development Authority, and the Utility Authorities of Jackson, Harrison, and Stone Counties for violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, known as NEPA.Congress created NEPA to prevent wasteful spending by requiring the government to “look before it leaps” meaning that direct, indirect and cumulative impacts to the environment must be studied before the project can move forward. MDA, HUD, and the Utility Authorities have attempted to shortcut this safeguard and, in the process, failed to develop the information necessary to inform themselves and affected members of the public of the significant, unnecessary, and wasteful damage some of the projects will cause. The damage at issue includes destroying wetlands, fragmenting important wildlife habitat corridors (including those that threatened and endangered species depend on), increasing pollutant loadings to the Pascagoula and Coastal Streams Basins and degrading Mississippi Sound and the Gulf of Mexico. Finally, there is a lost opportunity in using limited hurricane recovery funds to subsidize private real estate development instead of helping communities in need recover.Furthermore, the public has largely been kept out of the decision making process which has greatly upset local Mississippians who will be impacted by these developments.See the press conference coverage here:Mississippi PressSun HeraldWLOXAPMississippi Public BroadcastingWe hope that these agencies will show a good faith effort to comply with federal laws and to help motivate them we are reaching out to Secretary Donovan, head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Please help out and send Sec. Donovan a letter asking him to make sure that Katrina relief funds only go to Mississippi communities in need.Casey DeMoss Roberts is the Assistant Director of Water Resources for the Gulf Restoration Network.

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