Ocean Springs, MS
March 9, 2012
Introduction to letter to those listed below: The Mississippi Coast is a vibrant place of beaches and wetlands, with the barrier island chain of the Gulf Islands National Seashore serving as a centerpiece. Known for abundant fishing and diverse wildlife, the Mississippi Coast supports a thriving regional economy based on tourism and the seafood industry. Unfortunately, these valued coastal treasures and economies are now being threatened by efforts to open up Mississippi state waters to oil and gas drilling, exploration, and production.
- Governor Phil Bryant
- Lt. Governor Tate Reeves
- Attorney General Jim Hood
- Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann
- MDA Executive Director Jim Barksdale
I am writing to urge you to stop the proposed rules for oil and gas exploration, drilling, and production in Mississippi state waters.
This proposal would allow six-story production platforms within a mile of the Gulf Islands National Seashore barrier islands, two of which are Congressionally designated wilderness, as well as up to the shoreline of the eastern and western parts of Mississippi Sound, and within four to eleven miles of most coastal towns. Plus, these rigs and platforms also mean more oil and gas pipelines along the coast, more industrial ship traffic, and a greater risk for accidents like the 2010 BP oil disaster. We have already seen how oil and gas development has impacted the natural beauty of Louisiana and Alabama’s coasts; let’s not do that to our treasured coast.
Not only does the proposal endanger our natural treasures, it doesn’t make economic sense. The Mississippi Coast is a major economic engine for the state, drawing thousands of tourists and recreational fishermen annually. It sustains jobs for commercial fishermen and provides endless hours of enjoyment to visitors and families. According to Mississippi Development Authority’s own statistics, coastal tourism alone generated around $2.1 billion in 2011! Just a 2 to 3% drop in tourism could swamp any gains from oil and gas drilling and leave the state with a net loss of revenue.
Please be advised that the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) failed to identify and mark (for protection) the oyster reefs in Biloxi Bay and other reefs throughout Jackson County on their proposed leasing chart of Mississippi Sound. Those oyster resources were decimated by the BP oil spill and deserve the same protection as the public reefs in the western Sound, especially as we attempt to restore them to their pre-spill ecological importance.
In addition, there is no designated protective management or buffer zone around Deer Island and adjacent Marsh Point and nearby Round Island, all designated units within the US Coastal Barriers Resources System. The MDA also failed to designate a protective buffer around the very sensitive Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) in eastern Jackson County. These omissions should be corrected immediately and/or challenged by Mississippi’s coastal legislative delegation, the Department of Marine Resources, and the Harrison and Jackson County Boards of Supervisors.
The MDA has apparently failed in its responsibility to identify and, therefore, protect all of Mississippi’s sensitive coastal areas that may be impacted by inshore oil and gas exploration and development. Can we trust MDA to meet their responsibility if the agency hasn’t even designated all of the sensitive and protected marine and estuarine areas in Mississippi’s coastal waters? Not until that agency revises its coastal zone protection map and holds additional public hearings thereon!
E.W. “Ed” Cake, Jr., Ph.D.* is the Chief Science Officer at Gulf Environmental Associates. You can reach him at E-mail: email@example.com and Mobile: (228) 324-9292