Obama signs bill funding barrier islands’ restoration, river work

Ship Island

Ship Island

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — President Barack Obama today signed a bill that includes authorization for $693.3 million for the Mississippi Coastal Improvement Program in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties.

The Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program was initiated after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the first phase was completed in 2012. Work has included restoration of the barrier islands in the Mississippi Sound, but U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials told the Sun Herald there is more work left to do, including filling the cut that 1969′s Hurricane Camille opened between East and West Ship Island. All the projects in the plan aim to reduce storm damage, prevent saltwater intrusion, preserve fish and wildlife, prevent erosion and maintain harbors.

The $12.3 billion Water Resources Reform and Development Act sets out 10 years’ worth of infrastructure projects to aid U.S. ports and waterways, including the Port of Vicksburg and other inland ports where dredging typically takes place after larger ports along main stems of rivers like the Mississippi. Though the bill authorizes spending, Congress must appropriate the money separately.

The bill also provides that the Lower Mississippi River Museum and Riverfront Interpretive Site in Vicksburg will bear the name of towboat industry pioneer Jesse Brent. Brent founded Greenville Towing Company in 1956. He served as its chairman until his death in 1982.

Brent was also a founder and board chairman of the American Waterways Operators and was on the board of the National Waterways Conference.

The $23 million museum opened in Vicksburg in August 2012. It features a main hall with educational exhibits about the river and offers tours of the retired towboat MV Mississippi IV.

The bill also provides that the lock and dam at Aberdeen on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway will be named for longtime waterway administrator Don Waldon.

Waldon, a Columbus native, served as deputy administrator from 1975 until he was appointed administrator of the Tenn-Tom Development Authority on July 1, 1984. He retired in 2005.

The waterway is the largest water resource project ever built in the U.S. The waterway has 10 locks and dams, a 175-foot deep canal connecting the Tennessee River with the Tombigbee River watershed and 234 miles of navigation channels between the Tennessee River and Mobile, Ala.

 

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