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Mississippi announces plans for $37.8M in oil spill money

Mississippi officials have outlined how they plan to spend this year’s $37.8 million installment of BP oil spill money, focusing largely on economic, environmental and transportation projects.

Gov. Phil Bryant made the announcement Tuesday in Biloxi, outlining how the state will spend money from the federal RESTORE Act, which allocates 80 percent of the penalties from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the five Gulf Coast states.

More than half of this year’s money will be spent on economic projects, including $9 million to two separate worker training programs.

The biggest project is $12 million to use mud and sand removed from coastal waters through dredging to create new marshland across Mississippi’s three coastal counties. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality said the money will add to three previous efforts to use dredge spoil, including one that built about 220 acres (89 hectares) of marsh. One state study says Mississippi has lost 10,000 (4,000 hectares) acres of coastal marsh in the past 60 years. The project is supposed to begin in 2019 and end in 20204

Here’s a look at the other projects:

— $6 million to increase a breakwater protecting marshes in Hancock County from erosion. State and federal officials have already spent $56 million in environmental restoration money from the spill to design and build what they call a living shoreline near the Louisiana state line. The work so far includes 6 miles (9.7 kilometers) of breakwater and 46 acres (19 hectares) of oyster reefs. The additional money will fund a 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) extension to Bayou Caddy, near the Silver Slipper Casino.

— $5 million to fund a worker skill program at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The Work Ready Community Program, which teaches basic and industry-specific skills, has already received $4 million in oil spill money. The new money will also fund a program in unmanned drone technology.

— $4.8 million to help build a connector road north of Interstate 10 in eastern Jackson County. The road, which connects with retail centers in D’Iberville, has already received $15 million in oil spill money.

— $4 million to help Pearl River Community College build a workforce training center. The center near Stennis International Airport in Kiln has already received $3 million in oil spill money.

— $2.3 million to repair and upgrade a Gulfport rail line. The project will repair a rail spur near the Industrial Seaway closed since flooding in 2016. The state says the work will aid existing industries and make the area more attractive to new companies.

— $1.35 million for the Mississippi Aquarium. The money adds to the $18.35 million in oil spill money already given for aquarium construction in downtown Gulfport.

— $1.2 million to subsidize new airline service to Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. The state says the effort will boost tourism.

— $650,000 to set up a program in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy to collect discarded oyster shells and return them to Mississippi oyster reefs. The program is supposed to augment reefs that young oysters can latch to and grow. The state will also use the money to decide if continuing collections is economically feasible in the future.

— $400,000 to market Mississippi seafood. The money will underwrite marketing efforts by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources for three years.

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