Barbour Wants BP Money to Go Towards Deepening Channels at Port of Gulfport

Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour suggests BP settlement money should go toward deepening the channels at the Port of Gulfport, but not everyone agrees with that idea.
News 25’s Katarina Luketich gives us a look at both sides of the argument.
This week, former Governor Haley Barbour told Coast residents one of his biggest regrets after Katrina is not using federal funds to deepen the Port of Gulfport’s channel, allowing more room to import and export goods. “The Port of Gulfport can be much, much, much bigger and a much more powerful economic engine for the Coast and all of South Mississippi, but not as long as we have a 36 foot channel,” said Barbour.
Barbour said the Coast has now been given another opportunity and suggests using BP funds for the deepening project. But not everyone thinks that’s how the settlement money should be used.
Howard Page with the Steps Coalition said, “We’ve just recently closed the shrimp season very early and we had a terrible oyster season. So the money from BP should be used for natural resource restoration.”
Executive Director of the Port of Gulfport Jonathan Daniels tells News 25 that regardless of whether the funds come from BP or elsewhere, deepening the channels is something the Port is moving toward. “Any port wants to be as deep as it can. The deeper the draft, the deeper the water, certainly the larger vessels you can bring in,” said Daniels.
Daniels says the port is actively working with the Army Corps of Engineers on a plan to deepen the channels from the current 36 feet to somewhere around 45 feet, but members of the Steps Coalition do not feel it is a necessity. “For the amount of money it takes not only to dredge, but to dredge and maintain that port and the channel into perpetuity, it’s just not worth it. You don’t get enough business out of that,” said Page.
However, Daniels says plans to deepen the Port’s channels are ongoing but there is no set time frame as to when it could actually happen.

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