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State lands environmental restoration grants for Coast projects

Puffer_Fish_DSC01257GULF COAST — Mississippi will spend a $28 million grant on three environmental restoration projects along the Gulf Coast.

Gov. Phil Bryant said today that the money is coming from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Environmental Benefit Fund, which was created in 2013 as part of a settlement the U.S Justice Department reached with BP and Transocean to resolve criminal charges against the companies in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality said in a news release that more than $21 million will be used for marsh creation and restoration at St. Louis Bay, Back Bay of Biloxi, and the Pascagoula/Escatawpa system.

Bryant said restoring the marsh areas will help reduce erosion and provide protection from storm surge and a rising sea level.

“At the end of the day, this project will help fulfill one of our most important goals for restoring our coast — to improve water quality,” Bryant said in the news release. “As we improve water quality on the Gulf Coast, we ultimately improve our coastal economy and our way of life.”

More than $4 million will be spent for a two-year project to gather information about red snapper and other reef fish. Researchers will collect information about the abundance, distribution and life-history characteristics of red snapper and other reef fish in more than 16,000 acres of permitted offshore artificial reef sites.

The Department of Environmental Quality said $2.6 million will be spent on management of invasive species in Buccaneer and Shepard state parks and in the Ward Bayou Wildlife Management Area. The department also said an invasive species assessment will take place in the Pascagoula River Wildlife Management Area. Work will include prescribed burning, mechanical and chemical control of invasive vegetation, along with feral hog control.

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