This year’s State of Our Coast conference gathered hundreds of people in Biloxi to talk about an array of coastal issues. MPB Gulf Coast reporter Evelina Burnett was there and says topics ranged from seafood to environmental to economic issues.
The Department of Marine Resources organized the second annual conference. DMR director Jamie Miller says the agency tried to build on last year’s event with the theme, "Living on the Water -- Exploring Positive Opportunities."
"We've taken a cross-section of all sorts of coastal issues, from red snapper season to restoration to working waterfronts, and invited stakeholders to come participate, get informed and educate us a little bit on what they're concerned about," he says.
The nearly $1 billion in oil spill recovery money heading to Mississippi was also a major topic of conversation. Coastal legislators also discussed the $150 million spill economic damages that the state should receive this summer. That money will be doled out by the legislature. State Senator Michael Watson of Pascagoula says he’d like to see a special session just about these funds.
"My fear is if the money stays in Jackson, legislators are going to find a way to spend it," he says. "So I hope that we can get a lot of intense pressure and attention on a special session. So people can see, here's the money from the coast, or that was generated from damages to the coast."
Watson says $40 million of the $150 million has already been committed to projects on the coast - but he argues that funding was used to plug holes in the budget that were, he says, the state’s obligation.