Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson holding the public tidelands trust fund check of $11,226,497 that was distributed to the Department of Marine Resources at the Bolton Auditorium in Biloxi, Miss. on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021. (Hunter Dawkins/The Gazebo Gazette via AP)

by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher

In the annual ceremony hosted by the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office at the Bolton Auditorium in Biloxi on Tuesday, Secretary Michael Watson distributed a check of $11,226,497 to the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) Executive Director; General Joe Spraggins, for the Public Tidelands Trust Funds of Fiscal Year 2021-22.  This check was the second highest tidelands transfer since 1997 and will be distributed among the three counties from the Mississippi Gulf Coast and each municipality.

“I’d like to thank General Spraggins for his partnership,” stated Secretary Watson.  “We see the economic pressure from COVID-19 the last few years and we looked into helping these cities and businesses get back on their feet.”

The purpose of the Tidelands Trust Funds; as established by the State Legislature in 1989, is to carry out state policy of protecting the tidelands (below the mean of high water) in their natural state.  One exception which could be made would be for a reason benefitting the Tidelands Trust (recreation, water-dependent commercial activity, etc.).

2019 Tidelands Trust Funds check was the largest in history with former Secretary of State and current Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann providing an $11,740,000 check.  These funds are dedicated to the conservation and preservation of Mississippi’s Tidelands, while also enhancing public access areas.

Per House Bill 1412, these three Mississippi Gulf Coast counties and municipalities were authorized with these funds of $6,809,450:

Harrison County:

  • D’Iberville Working Waterfront – $400,000
  • West Pass Christian Small Craft Harbor Improvements – $270,000
  • Courthouse Road Boat Launch (Gulfport) – $250,000
  • Bernard Bayou James Hill Park (Gulfport) – $200,000
  • Causeway Park Floating Dock Project (Biloxi) – $200,000
  • Hiller Park Boat Launch (Biloxi) – $150,000
  • MS Coastal Map (SMPDD) – $150,000
  • Eagle Point Park (Biloxi) – $125,000
  • Applications Maritime Classroom (Harrison County Board of Supervisors) – $100,000
  • Kuhn Street Boat Launch (Biloxi) – $50,000
  • Long Beach Harbor Improvements – $25,000

Total = $1,920,000

Hancock County:

  • Clermont Harbor Pier Expansion (Hancock Board of Supervisors) – $451,000
  • Noma Drive Public Access Improvements (Diamondhead) – $400,000
  • Boat Launch Marina Planning Assistance (Waveland) – $300,000
  • Bayou La Croix Boat Launch (Bay St. Louis) – $200,000

Total = $1,351,000

Jackson County:

  • Highway 613 Sunset Pier & Sidewalk Extension (Moss Point) – $403,450
  • Improvements to Point Park Boardwalk & Piers (Pascagoula) – $400,000
  • USM/GCRL Marine Education Center Pier & Kayak Launch – $335,000
  • Mary Walker Bayou Parks Project (Gautier) – $250,000
  • Shepard State Park Upgrades Project (Gautier) – $250,000
  • East Beach Accessibility Phase II (Ocean Springs) – $234,000
  • Racetrack Road Boat Launch (Jackson County Board of Supervisors) – $150,000
  • Estuarine Education Center Comfort Station (MGCCC) – $100,000

Total = $2,122,450

Secretary Watson expressed that his office wants to follow the law despite a few legal battles regarding a few casinos.  “After the election, there were a few that said ‘he’s a Coast guy, so we can do what we want,” expressed the Secretary of State Watson, who is a native of Pascagoula that served in the state legislature as a District 51 Senator from 2008-2020.  “I am for the Coast because I am from the Coast, but there is a body of law, which we will work under.”