Restoration and conservation projects that will use $34 million from the BP settlement money have begun on the Coast or will soon start, state officials said Wednesday.
Officials with the state departments of Environmental Quality and Marine Resources, at their annual State of the Coast meeting, announced the money has been allocated for a wide range of projects from Hancock County to Pascagoula.
Mississippi was awarded $2.17 billion in a settlement in 2015, MDEQ Executive Director Gary Rikard said. The Legislature has authority over the “economic damage” part of the settlement, $750 million.
The projects are "in phase one," said Robert Kroger, chief scientific officer of Covington Civil and Environment LLC.
Large projects will center on the Mississippi Sound, the De Soto National Forest and the barrier islands.
"We're in the beginning stages of work to restore and conserve parts of the Coast," he said. "We're trying to answer science-based questions before we begin some projects. Others we've begun."
Efforts will include marsh restoration and conservation, and adding dredge sediments to shallow waters to create artificial reefs.
The DMR is looking at creating about 100 acres of reef sites near piers, so residents can use them. Kroger said officials hope to encourage marine life such as shrimp and oysters.
He said projects are also in the works to ensure water quality in the Mississippi Sound. Part of that involves acquisition of private land adjacent to the streams and estuarites that run into the Sound, he said.
In addition, the state will spend $750,000 on education outreach.
"Mississippi is the only state to prioritize education into their efforts," Kroger said.
The DMR continues to research best practices for oyster farming.
"We're looking at what methods are most suitable for harvesting oysters, and also what conditions are necessary," he said.
About 200 acres of shoreline are lost each year, said Goerge Ramseur Jr. with the DMR's Office of Coastal Restoration and Resiliency. "Since 1950, we've been slowly, slowly eroding marsh and our shoreline. We're (now) trying to stabilize what we are losing."