Review finds problems with port’s expansion plans

GULFPORT — A review ordered by Gov. Phil Bryant finds a number of problems with expansion plans at the Port of Gulfport.

One is that the state port doesn’t have long-term leases with four current tenants that will operate on the expanded West Pier, The Sun-Herald reported.

The consulting firm R.J. Johns & Associates also criticized the lack of a public-private partnership with tenant DuPont. A “considerable investment” will be needed to serve DuPont on the expanded West Pier, it said.

The consultants also said there won’t be any economic development return from spending $100 million or more to raise the port 25 feet or from an 18-month shutdown of rails to DuPont while work is done.

Former Gov. Haley Barbour’s administration shifted $560 million designated for housing recovery to the port project; Barbour called long-term port expansion the biggest economic-development project in Mississippi history.

The money is administered and the project overseen by the Mississippi Development Authority, the state’s economic-development agency. However, when asked Friday who at MDA was responsible for working on port leases, public-private partnerships to fund improvements and bringing in new tenants, Bryant spokesman Mick Bullock wrote:

“The Port Commission is responsible for negotiating leases and entering into legal agreements. By law, MDA must review and approve those legal documents prior to final execution by the Commission.”

The review Bryant ordered suggests the port work with current tenants on long-term leases, get a public-private partnership with DuPont for its improvements, evacuate for hurricanes rather than elevating the port, and develop plans for non-maritime use of the north shore.

 

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