BILOXI -- Gov. Phil Bryant on Wednesday morning announced about $54 million in projects he has selected for funding from the BP catastrophe damage award, including $17 million for an aquarium in Gulfport.
Bryant selected the projects from a list of submissions reviewed and recommended by the GoCoast 2020 Commission and announced them at a news conference at the Coast Convention Center ahead of a multi-state Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council meeting he hosted.
"We always wanted this to be a Gulf Coast event, a Coast-centric event," he said. He said the projects could receive additional funding.
In addition to the aquarium, other economic development projects funded:
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-- $10.2 million for a Jackson County corridor to connect St. Martin and D'Iberville commercial development
-- $5 million for high-speed broadband on the Coast, with the possibility of an additional $10 million in funding
-- $8 million to improve the terminal at Port Bienville in Hancock County
-- $2 million for a hangar at Stennis International Airport in Hancock County
-- $4 million for the Work-Ready Program to teach residents basic and industry skills
-- $1 million each for the William Carey University pharmacy school and an oyster aquaculture program the state Department of Marine Resources will manage for those employed in the seafood industry
Two restoration-oriented projects will be funded:
-- $5 million DEQ will manage to improve water quality of streams emptying into the Mississippi Sound
-- $900,000 for a Gulf restoration project management system at DEQ
Bryant also detailed four projects being funded through the Restoration Council:
-- $15.5 million for land and conservation easements on the Coast, emphasizing Gulf Islands National Seashore, Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge and De Soto National Forest
-- $2.18 million for planning, engineering and design on use of dredged spoils for coastal restoration
-- $2.27 million for the Mississippi Sound Estuarine Program to coordinate restoration work
-- $750,000 for education and outreach on restoration and water quality
"We all have a great deal of work to do," the governor said. "This was a tragedy. We had suffered through Katrina and recovered, then the (BP) spill. Today is the day that we are now on offense, that we begin to implement the plan that has been in place literally since the later part of 2010. We think it's a good one. We believe that we have involved the Mississippi Gulf Coast and, in fact, these are projects designed, and that will be implemented, by people and companies and corporations and political leaders along the Mississippi Gulf Coast."
Funding for the projects is not expected before spring or summer. The public will have a chance to comment on the governor's nine projects, which are described in detail on the Restore Mississippi website. The state will finalize plans after comments are reviewed, then submit grants for each program to the U.S. Treasury Department for approval.