Harrison County

Restaurateurs support oyster farming but residents against it

TRAVIS SPRADLING/THE ADVOCATE 
 LSU biology instructor Steve Pollock checks oysters growing in floating mesh bags in his family's Triple N Oyster Farm in Caminada Bay near Grand Isle, La.
TRAVIS SPRADLING/THE ADVOCATE LSU biology instructor Steve Pollock checks oysters growing in floating mesh bags in his family's Triple N Oyster Farm in Caminada Bay near Grand Isle, La.

BILOXI -- Harrison County supervisors say they support efforts to increase oyster farming in Coast waters, but not near Henderson Point in West Harrison County.

Supervisors approved two resolutions Monday: One against opening up a 24-acre stretch of Bay St. Louis waters for the farming, and another that praised the Department of Marine Resources for their efforts broadly.

Residents of Henderson Point have argued the oyster farms would be unsightly and bring property value down, hindering recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

Area restaurateurs at Monday's meeting expressed another side of the argument.

"We're not against what DMR (Department of Marine Resources) is trying to do," District 3 Supervisor Martin Ladner said. "We applaud their efforts. We realize how important it is."

"All we saying is not in that specific location," he said.

DMR Executive Director Jaime Miller said DMR looked at three other sites before choosing one near Henderson Point. The proposed area is about 900 feet from the shore between the Bay St. Louis Bridge and CSX railroad bridge.

"We looked at water quality, the depth of the water, a number of factors," he said. "That's one thing the residents should know. We chose this area because of those things," he said.

"It would benefit the Coast in several ways," said Mississippi Coast Restaurant Association President John Boyle, who oversees 150 restaurants across the Coast,

"Of course the first thing is, we have to purchase our oysters from Louisiana. Oyster farming would be a great benefit for restaurants here. It would save us money and boost the economy," he said.

Rob Stinson, who owns six popular Coast restaurants that feature seafood, also said he was on board.

"I understand the aesthetics issue. But I think if folks actually look, it's far different from what they fear. This is a great thing for us," he said.

Gulfport attorney Henry Laird, who represents area property owners, said approval for the permitting would tie up supervisors with zoning issues.

"This area proposed is right off my client's property. It's about 96 to 97 percent a residential area. The board would have to look at re-zoning the eastern part of Bay St. Louis if the farming were allowed," he said.

Miller said the area being considered by DMR has been an open oyster harvest area for 30 years.

"It's not restricted from commercial harvesting," he said.

The supervisors have no final say on the matter, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has ultimate authority over leasing the waters. But supervisor's resolutions can be submitted to the Corps for consideration on permitting.

If approved, it will take a year to a year and a half to get a permit, DMR spokeswoman Melissa Scallan said.

"We don't know that we'll use all 24 acres. More than likely, it'll be less. Since the process takes so long, we have to apply for the maximum amount," she said.

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