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
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."