Feds, state buying coast land for storm buffer

The state and federal governments are

buying land along the Mississippi Gulf Coast to prevent future

development and create a buffer zone against storms.

The three-phase plan, first started in Jackson County, is to

convert formerly or currently developed private land into

state-held beaches, wetlands and parks.

"It will be attractive and it's also a form of remediation to

protect areas from future storms," said Bill Walker, the director

of Mississippi's Department of Marine Resources. "They can

voluntarily take the buyout and go live somewhere away from the

damage of those future storms."

Walker said the plan is to spread westward along the coast.

He said the property will be cleaned of slabs and restored or

converted to public use.

The land will become part of the DMR's Coastal Preserves

Program, which presently has title to around 30,000 acres

designated as crucial coastal wetland habitat.

"This is voluntary at this point," Walker said. "If a whole

lot of folks are resistant, we'll consider other options. But

that's down the road and I don't even want to go there right now.

We're going to give folks different choices."

Walker said Friday that other projects are also about to get

under way as part of the coastal restoration:

The first phase of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Mississippi

Coastal Improvement Program totaling $107 million passed through

Congress last month. Some of the projects, which he said will start

in the next month, will rebuild Bay St. Louis' seawall, restore

beaches and build dune systems on beaches.

The corps' final report is expected to contain a request to

enhance or restore 15,000 acres of coastal wetlands.

Money is already secured for a project intended to double the

size of Deer Island, reforest it and close gaps cut into it by

Hurricane Katrina.

Deer Island is the first island-engineering work that will be

started. Gov. Haley Barbour has been pushing to rebuild all the

state's barrier islands to their 1900 footprints.

"I don't think we're going to leave those barrier islands

alone," Walker said. "If we have another storm, they may not be

there anymore. We propose to help Mother Nature rebuild our

islands, not to what they were before Katrina, but to the way they

were before Camille."


Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com