BP millions will do wonders for the Coast — if invested wisely

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon in 2010.
Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon in 2010. AP File

We hope the Legislature heeds Gov. Phil Bryant’s advice and invests the remainder of the BP economic damages settlement wisely.

That money should be invested in an account that earns taxpayers as much interest as possible while the Coast looks for a project that will improve our economy, which is still reeling from the triple whammy of Katrina, BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster and the Great Recession of 2008.

A healthy Coast economy would benefit the entire state and that’s why the Coast should get most of the $750 million the state will get from BP. That disaster wrecked the Coast economy with an underwater gusher that oiled our beaches, shut down the seafood industry and chased tourists away.

The state has spent about $50 million of the money on smaller projects, mostly in South Mississippi. But that spending barely has made a ripple in the economy.

That’s why we want to keep the focus on something big, something that will still be a big deal decades from now.

Exactly what that is, we don’t know. But we believe that Coast leaders in business, industry and government are best positioned to develop a visionary idea that will make some big waves.

Bryant is right. It would be easy to keep spending it on a lot of small pet projects. Everyone has one of those. And one or more of them could have a lasting effect — but that would be a long shot.

We know that no project or projects paid for with the settlement will be a magic bullet to solve all our problems but chosen wisely, they will help.

So, the next move will be up to the Legislature. This money is in its control.

And that’s more than a bit disconcerting, given the Coast delegation is greatly outnumbered in Jackson.

That’s why it’s important for the Coast to have Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves on our side.

So far, they have been clear that they see the BP disaster as primarily a Coast disaster and the settlement is most needed on the Coast.

It’s nice to have some assurance that the fund won’t be raided anytime soon. But we have to keep reminding our friends upstate that the Coast is far from recovered from the disaster.

Lawmakers should give the Coast time to find a project that brings the Coast the best return on investment.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.