Pass Harbor on mend for upcoming oyster harvest

Published 7:10 pm Tuesday, March 27, 2007

After nearly two years since its last use, officials are hoping to have the storm-damaged harbor here in shape before September’s oyster harvest.

The harbor sits on about 11,000 acres of oyster reef, which accounts for about 95 percent of those caught off the Mississippi Coast. Workers with the Department of Marine Resource have been restoring the reefs, and say the oysters seem to be rebounding well. DMR personnel said Hurricane Katrina wiped out about 95 percent of the legal-sized catch.

Construction on the harbor began earlier this month. City officials have set a goal to complete the harbor by late summer.

During the second phase of construction expected to begin by the end of May electricity will be replaced, piers rebuilt and water service restored.

Before the storm about 70 percent of the oysters that were landed off the Mississippi Coast came from boats that left Pass Christian Harbor, said Bradley Randall, biological programs coordinator for DMR’s shellfish program. The other 30 percent was brought in by fishermen from Bayou Caddy in Hancock County, where there’s not much activity now.

“It is very critical for the oyster fishermen to have that open,” Randall said. “It’s a huge economic impact.”

The majority of the harbor’s restoration costs are being reimbursed by various agencies, leaving the city only responsible for 5 percent of the multi-million-dollar project, said Mayor Chipper McDermott.

“When you get started getting things done, that is when you feel better,” McDermott said. “You just have to be patient, and that ain’t easy.”