Port of Gulfport to announce expansion plans

Published 10:58 pm Saturday, September 13, 2008

State and local officials are promoting a plan that calls for construction of a new Port of Gulfport at a cost close to $1 billion.

The proposal replaces one made last year in which port officials want to expand to the west. It was opposed by the public and casinos who said that it would eliminate the beach along U.S. Highway 90.

Currently, the port covers about 210 acres. The new plan calls for a nearly 1,000 acre facility. The expansion would take the port south of its present location, requiring dredging and a deepening and widening of the channel.

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Doug Sethness, vice president of the Houston firm CH2M Hill, which developed the plan, said Thursday that the proposal includes a new route that runs through an underground corridor linking the port to the Interstate 10. The corridor would be wide enough to handle at least eight lanes of traffic and a rail line.

The proposal was announced Friday in Gulfport.

The port property would also be elevated to 25 feet, to avoid major damage from any future hurricanes. This concept also calls for a buffer between the city and the port.

“It will create a channel between the port and the town. We will also develop landscaping around the port which will create an attractive amenity. Instead of looking at an industrial area, you will be looking at an island,” Sethness told WLOX-TV.

Port Director Don Allee said much of the initial funding will come from the $575 million in community development block grant money already targeted for the port.

Allee said the permitting would take two years or more followed by another five to seven years of construction.

“This would be the single largest economic-development project in the state’s history,” Lee Youngblood, a spokesman for the Mississippi Development Authority, told The Sun Herald newspaper. “It’s a statewide project with implications from the coast going all the way up the state to the Tennessee line.”

Allee said a public hearing on the plan is scheduled for Sept. 18 at 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. at the Hancock Bank building in downtown Gulfport.