Oyster harvesters will soon be able to have more and easier access to the Pass Christian Harbor after its long-awaited expansion opens at the end of this month.
A ribbon-cutting is set for 10 a.m. July 22, said Mayor Chipper McDermott, and the 20-acre addition will cause the harbor to stretch from Hiern Avenue to Davis Avenue.
"It's going to be a beautiful harbor," he said.
It will have 60 recreation slips and 120 commercial slips, and he said all the commercial activity will be moved to the east side to relieve congestion.
"Where they're at now, on Market (Street), there's congestion and there's not enough room to turn the 18-wheelers that they use to haul the seafood," McDermott said.
He said there'll be less of the seafood odor that sometimes wafts over to the boaters and businesses.
An ice house for the fishermen is also built on the east side, and McDermott said the machine is still being built so that part of the harbor won't be at full capacity for a few months.
The whole project took a little longer and cost more than expected. The design had to be altered to have fewer slips after initial bids came in $4 million to $5 mil
lion too high. The process started in 2009 when the first permits were requested and dredging and construction began in 2011. McDermott said storms and hurricanes caused delays, but the project is "pretty much on track."
The city used $25 million from a Mississippi Development Authority grant, $5 million from BP for dredging and $3 million from a Coastal Impact Assistance Program grant to help meet green standards in the federal Clean Marina Program.
The CIAP funding came under fire in a 2013 in a U.S. Department of the Interior audit of the state Department of Marine Resources, which administers the grant. It was one of several Coast projects the audit said did not have "sufficient justification" to receive the funding, which comes from offshore oil leases and is meant to for the protection or restoration of coastal areas.
McDermott said the city is also still in talks with Hilton to build a hotel across the street. He said the company wants a private investor to provide 10 percent interest of the $11 million project.
"If we can put that together, that's the piece we're missing," he said.