I just got back from a public hearing on the Richton Salt Domes project on April 10, and the turnout was incredible. Somewhere between 250 and 300 Mississippi coast residents turned out to speak out against this destructive pork project. There were landowners, fishermen, industrialists, scientists, environmentalists, and many more people who wouldn’t fit into any category, but are concerned with the proposed project nonetheless.In early 2007, the DOE made final its plans to store 160 million barrels of oil in Richton, an amount equivalent to roughly two weeks of U.S. oil consumption. In order to create a storage cavern, the DOE would hollow-out salt domes by dissolving them with fifty million gallons a day of fresh water from the Pascagoula River. The hyper-saline solution would then be discharged four miles south of Horn Island in the Mississippi Gulf, creating a dead zone where most sea life could not survive the low-oxygen, salty conditions. In addition, the project would rely upon 330 miles of pipeline to transport oil, water, and brine, and the DOE’s acknowledges that there will be numerous spills. Their own projections predict that there would be 56 brine spills that could harm the Pascagoula River, its tributaries, and connected wetlands.There were a number of great speakers who gave public comments, though, for me, the most inspiring speaker on Thursday night was an 80 year-old retired school teacher from Biloxi who skipped celebrating her birthday because she said the public hearing was more important. There was not a single person there who spoke in favor of the salt domes project. After the impressive turnout, I hope the DOE and the politicians such as Governor Barbour who have pushed this project are starting to get the message. This movement to save the Pascagoula is only growing.You can check out some photos the Sun Herald took here.Jeff Grimes is Assistant Director of Water Resources.