The city of Gulfport has asked the Mississippi congressional delegation to press federal agencies to approve plans for repairs to piers and jetties damaged since Hurricane Isaac.
The Sun Herald reports that four piers and three jetties have been closed since August 2012.
Isaac hit Aug. 29, 2012, and tore up slats, pilings and jetties from Biloxi to Pass Christian. Repairs and improvements require approval of the Federal Emergency Management Agency before work can begin.
John R. Kelly, Gulfport’s chief administrative officer, said it appears that because of some endangered species that have to be investigated by NOAA Fisheries, the process has taken longer than anybody anticipated.
Kelly said the endangered species is sea turtles. Kelly said the agency is considering doing a biological assessment on the turtles.
“We just don’t think the in-depth study that they’re talking about having to do is required in this case,” he said.
FEMA spokesman Kurt Pickering said any federally funded project has to be reviewed for impacts on the environment, and that the large number of studies done in the Gulf of Mexico since the BP oil spill has created a lot of new data that need to be explored.
Ultimately, though, he said federal money cannot be used if it will affect an endangered species or habitat.
“People fish from the piers and jetties that we’re talking about and it’s possible that endangered species will be captured as part of that fishing,” Pickering said. “We cannot allow federal monies to cause endangered species to be captured that otherwise wouldn’t be.”
He said FEMA met with local agencies on Hurricane Isaac projects last month and Gulfport’s response was received on Nov. 25 and is under review.
Kelly said the city is looking into paying for repairs itself and later being reimbursed by FEMA.
“There is a permitting process that is allowed by law and we’re going to explore whether or not we want to follow that alternate route,” Kelly said. “My legal team is telling me there’s absolutely no reason why FEMA wouldn’t reimburse the city after the city has spent its money if we follow that alternate process.”
Kelly said the issue would be brought before the city council at the Dec. 17 meeting.
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