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PORT OF GULFPORT EXPANSION PROJECT AWAITS APPROVALS AFTER DEIS

In December, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District held a public hearing for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Mississippi State Port Authority (MSPA)/Port of Gulfport Expansion Project.

The DEIS assesses the potential environmental impacts associated with dredging 282 acres of estuarine mud and sand bottom in the Mississippi Sound for the construction of wharfs, bulkheads, terminal facilities, container storage areas, intermodal container transfer facilities, and construction of a breakwater.

The permit was originally submitted in March 2010 and revised in early 2011 to reduce the overall potential fill material required for the project. Although in April 2013, MSPA submitted another revised permit application to the Corps, including modification to the Gulfport Harbor Federal Navigation Channel and Turning Basin, the project changed again removing the expansion to the federal channel. The expansion project includes modifications to the West Pier, East Pier, North Harbor and Turning Basin, including construction of a breakwater on the eastern side of the navigation channel.

In addition to providing the port expanding areas for business, the project will elevate the upland up to +25 feet mean sea level to provide protection against future tropical storm surge events.

According to the DEIS report, the navigation channel is 300 feet wide in the inner channel (Sound Channel) and maintained to a depth of 36 feet within Mississippi Sound. The outer channel (Bar Channel) from Ship Island south to the safety fairway is 400 feet wide with a depth of 38 feet. The Port’s North Harbor (Inner Harbor) is maintained to a depth of 32 feet, while the South Harbor (Outer Harbor) and Gulfport Turning Basin, which are approximately 1,320 feet wide, are maintained to a depth of 36 feet. The depths provided do not include two feet of allowable over depth and two feet of advance maintenance.

Prior to the expansion work at the Port of Gulfport, a major restoration project will be completed first. When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August 2005, the storm destroyed the port. Through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Community Development Block Grant program, $570 million was allocated to reestablish a sustainable port facility. That money went to constructing new terminals and infrastructure, including filling 24 acres on the west side of the West Pier, completing phase three of the restoration project.

Based on a proposed schedule by MSPA construction would begin 2018.

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