BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Governor Phil Bryant created an intra-agency and university task force to monitor environmental conditions and to measure the impacts on marine species in the Mississippi Sound after the second opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway.
The intra-agency and task force consists of The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR), Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), the USM Gulf Coast Research Lab, Mississippi State University (MSU), and the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS).
MDMR is currently monitoring the impacts of the spillway on the fisheries in Mississippi. Scientists are using fishery independent methods to sample oyster reefs, shrimp, crabs and finfish while increasing the number of water sampling locations and expanding the collection of hydrological parameters, such as water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and turbidity to accurately report current conditions. Furthermore, commercial landings data are also being evaluated monthly for any trends which may indicate that the spillway is having a direct effect on specific species.
IMMS, MDMR and the MSU Department of Veterinary College are monitoring the increased number of stranded or deceased dolphins and sea turtles being reported in the Mississippi Sound to determine potential causes. MDEQ will continue to perform water quality analysis on public beaches to ensure it is safe for human contact and recreation.
“I believe it is important for the task force to collect the necessary data to accurately assess the impacts of the spillway on our natural resources,” said Joe Spraggins, MDMR Executive Director. “We want the public to be informed about what is happening in the Mississippi Sound.”
The task force reports to the governor weekly and will provide science-based facts to the media about water quality, water quantity, seafood and safety risk to humans who come in contact with water from the Mississippi Sound.