FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 17, 2022
Louie Miller, State Director, Mississippi Sierra Club, email@example.com, (601)-624-3503
Ruth Story, Executive Director and Co-founder, Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization (EEECHO) (228) 223-6885
Andrew Whitehurst, Water Program Director, Healthy Gulf, firstname.lastname@example.org, (601) 954-7236
Lula Dedeaux, President, National Council of Negro Women – Gulfport Section, email@example.com, (228) 669-5025
Historic Black Communities Challenge Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s Controversial Road Project
Proposal will only deliver more environmental injustice
Gulfport, Miss. – Today the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization (EEECHO), Sierra Club, and Healthy Gulf filed a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Secretary Pete Buttigieg challenging the environmental assessment for a controversial and money-losing road development proposal known as the Gulfport Airport Road Extension.
The legal challenge is based on the DOT’s failure to follow the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it approved $25 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies for the project, even while acknowledging that the costs of the project are likely to outweigh the benefits.
“The surrounding communities have long spoken out against this costly, ineffective, and environmentally hazardous plan. It will only deliver more environmental injustice to one of the most historic Black communities in Mississippi,” stated Ruth Story, Executive Director and Co-founder of Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization. “The legacy of inequitable highway decisions continues despite the promises of this Administration.”
For well over a decade the City of Gulfport has promoted commercial real estate development of a large tract in the Turkey Creek watershed adjacent to the U.S. 49 and I-10 interchange. The area is composed mostly of wetlands that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has designated as having national significance and value. “Our roads already get flooded, our church parking lot was recently flooded with six inches of water.,” stated Lula Dedeaux, Gulfport Section President of the National Council of Negro Women. “These wetlands have been recognized as Aquatic Resources of National Importance by the Environmental Protection Agency because they provide vital flood protection to the Forest Heights, North Gulfport, and Turkey Creek communities. The Connector Road will only serve to make these existing and dangerous flooding problems worse.”
“The Environmental Assessment was completely inadequate because it failed to look at the induced commercial development the road will bring,” stated Andrew Whitehurst, Healthy Gulf’s Water Program Director. “A full Environmental Impact Statement is needed to comprehensively evaluate impacts to wetlands and floodplains from the 2.8 million square feet of new commercial development that is anticipated to open along this new road.”
Importantly, DOT requirements state that a project must be a reasonable expenditure, yet the agency acknowledges that the costs of this project likely outweigh the benefits. The City of Gulfport’s own traffic analysis shows the road will do almost nothing to help with congestion on U.S. 49.
“The reality is that $48 plus million in taxpayer dollars will do nothing to help traffic congestion.” stated Louie Miller, State Director for Mississippi Sierra Club. “It’s clear the goal of this proposal is to promote new commercial development for the enrichment of politically connected, private real estate developers, at the expense of the local community.”