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Corps sets public hearing on port expansion, minus deeper ship channel

JUSTIN MITCHELL/SUN HERALD 
 An aerial of the state port in Gulfport, shot in July, shows the expanded West Pier on the right. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has scheduled a Dec. 8 public hearing on its environmental study of the port's future expansion plans.
JUSTIN MITCHELL/SUN HERALD An aerial of the state port in Gulfport, shot in July, shows the expanded West Pier on the right. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has scheduled a Dec. 8 public hearing on its environmental study of the port's future expansion plans. SUN HERALD

GULFPORT -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed a draft of its environmental study on proposed port expansion -- minus a deeper ship channel -- that will be the subject of a public hearing at 6:30 p.m., Dec. 8, at the Courtyard Marriott on Beach Boulevard.

An open house at 5:30 p.m. will precede the hearing, with Corps and port officials on hand to answer questions.

The Corps started the environmental study in 2011, but modifications to the permit request delayed completion.

The latest component to go was a 47-foot ship channel the port proposed for today's deeper-draft vessels. The current ship channel is 36 feet deep, too shallow for the latest generations of vessels that hold far more containers.

The study evaluates the impact of filling about 200 acres of water bottoms in the Mississippi Sound to expand the West Pier by 160 acres and add 40 acres that would square off the north harbor for additional docking and storage. The study also looks at enlarging the port's turning basin and construction of a breakwater about 4,000 feet long.

The port is currently building infrastructure on its West Pier, which has been expanded by 84 acres under previous Corps permits.

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