Confusion over approval idles Coast harbor project

LONG BEACH — A project to replace fuel tanks, piping and electronics for a new fuel dock at the harbor in Long Beach in on hold.

Port Commission president Phil Kies tells the Sun Herald that the city is using tidelands money to build the fuel dock.

However, there has been some confusion over whether the city had gotten approval to begin project.

Kies said approval came from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency in June. MEMA spokesman Brett Carr said Long Beach officials must have misunderstood.

Thinking the work had been cleared, the commission hired contractors. Workers already have completed other parts of the job: installation of a finger pier and launch ramp.

In October, MEMA told the city to stop work before a contractor started on the fuel dock, another finger pier and miscellaneous work.

Carr said an environmental review has to be completed.

“This environmental review has to be completed on all these types of projects. This is not something new. I’m not saying there wasn’t some type of misunderstanding, but we never told them to move forward. The project should not move forward until it is completed,” Carr said.

Kies said the Port Commission thought all permits, including environmental clearances, were in order. He said local officials are still unclear about what MEMA wants.

“It keeps going on and on,” Kies said. “They have yet to define the problem.”

Before Isaac, Kies said, 194 of the harbor’s 214 boat slips were filled. Today, only 115 slips are occupied. He said the harbor has been losing money since Isaac hit.

“The boats are leaving and now, to add insult to injury the Pass (Christian) is opening up more slips and Bay St. Louis is coming on, so now some of our longtime customers are going to have to make decisions. Some of them are going to stay with us; some will leave.

“It’s frustrating. The bottom line is … tell us what the problem is and we’ll correct it,” Kies said.

After the work is cleared, Kies hopes it can be completed in 60 days. Optimistically, he hopes to have fuel for boaters by mid-March. The fishing season will be starting up then.

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