Ken Combs Pier Remains Closed from Lack of F.E.M.A. Money

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Updated: 3/26 6:26 pm
Hurricane Isaac of 2012 left piers along the Coast in a state of disrepair, forcing them to be closed to the public. The barricades inconvenience cities, as well as the people who live in them. What was once a place lined with fishing wire and bait is now a resort for seagulls and not much else, but now that some federal barricades have been removed, officials are hoping to move some physical ones very soon. A local spot known for being filled with fishermen has been closed off for years. John R. Kelly, the Chief Administrative Officer for Gulfport, says, "Anytime you have a takeaway like the usage of piers and jettys, it lessens the quality of life for your citizens." Ken Combs Pier in Gulfport is one of many on the Coast that has remained barricaded after Hurricane Isaac ripped them up in 2012. Rickey Morgan, a resident, says, “When it was fixed, there were a lot people, you were always seeing people fishing off here, but now you don’t see anybody with a fishing pole. They usually get in a boat and go out but not everybody’s got a boat.”

The City of Gulfport, Harrison County, and the City of Long Beach have requested disaster relief funds to repair the damaged piers, but the federal government has slowed the process to test for an endangered turtle in the area. Representative Steven Palazzo says, "To many in southern Mississippi, and to me, this is a prime example of bureaucratic red tape at its worst." Long Beach is economically impacted as boats are leaving their shores. Billy Skellie, the Mayor of Long Beach, says, “It’s hard financially on our Port Commission to keep it funded and make things continue to pay its way.” Gulfport has received the go ahead on the turtle testing, but is waiting for the funds to begin repairs. Kelly also says, "We are waiting now to hear from F.E.M.A. and M.E.M.A. to say, ‘You all can proceed.’” There is a species of turtle that is at the center of the entire pier issue, the Kemp’s Ridley, a turtle that is the most endangered species in the world. Ricky Dombrowski, the Gulfport City Council President, says, “We want to protect the habitat and the turtles out there, but I’m sure that fisherman on boats are out there catching as many as they would off of the piers. Now you’re penalizing the people that don’t have boats.”

Gulfport officials say the piers are the livelihood of the many Coast residents who depend on their catch and they look forward to quickly repairing what has been nonfunctional for years. The City of Gulfport says they expect to receive final funding approval from F.E.M.A. and M.E.M.A. in a few days.




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