by Calvin Ishee

Under the guise of Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson serving as Santa, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) was given a gift of $7,349,277 in Tidelands Trust Funds money. These funds are targeted towards projects that conserve the natural state of public lands on the Mississippi Gulf.

Secretary Watson commented, “I’m excited to return these funds to the Coast for the preservation of our beautiful coastline. Growing up on the Coast gave me a true sense of its beauty and and the import of being a good steward of God’s creation”.  He went on to thank the legislature, local elected officials as well as other strategic partners.

According to Secretary Watson, due to the challenges encountered in 2020, this years 2021 allocation was about $4,000,000 short of last years gift. Some of the funds that support this direly needed program come from the state excise taxes on gas, oil and petroleum products and were much lower than anticipated. Secretary Watson also commented that this is a very complicated, competitive and timely process.

Tidelands Funds are awarded by the Mississippi Legislature and as noted in House Bill 1726,  Pass Christian was given $270,000 for harbor repairs while sister cities Long Beach received $300,000 for harbor improvements and $40,000 for a pavilion; Bay St. Louis got $250,000 for municipal harbor fuel dock improvements and $$200,000 for oyster brood stock enhancements while Waveland received $250,000 for pagodas and showers.

Pass Christian Harbormaster Marty Tiller confirmed that $270,000 had been allocated for improvements to the East side of the harbor. Although the funds have been approved and distributed to coastal cities, some projects may be slightly delayed due to damage sustained from Hurricane Zeta. Tiller stated the City had submitted two projects, the aforementioned $270,000 project as well as a $395,000 project, which did not make this years funding cut.

Big challenges lay ahead for municipal local harbors as they balance repairs needed from Hurricane Zeta as well as previously approved modifications and improvements. Cities will also have to deal with revenue loses due to having fewer rental slips as well as ever increasing costs of simply maintaining our local harbors.