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‘Go Coast’ Team Planning for Millions from RESTORE Act

By Rhonda Miller | Published 22 Aug 2012 07:36pm | comments

A team of Gulf Coast leaders is developing a plan for restoring parts of South Mississippi damaged by the BP oil spill.  MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports the new team, announced by Gov. Phil Bryant yesterday in Biloxi, covers a wide range of recovery issues.

The commission is called Go Coast 2020.  It’s divided into eight groups focusing on issues including economic development, seafood and the environment. State Senator Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula is chairman of the eco-restoration team.

"We have an opportunity that we probably  never will have in the future to set the course for our environment on the Gulf Coast. Our environment is extremely important to the citizens down here. It’s our way of life. It’s our recreation."

The anticipated hundreds of millions of dollars will come from the RESTORE Act passed by Congress in June. The legislation distributes 80 percent of the fines BP will pay to the five affected Gulf Coast states.

Director of the Department of Environmental Quality Trudy Fisher oversees the state’s recovery efforts from the oil spill, including the new Go Coast 2020 team.  She says the funding will come through after the legal issues are settled.

"There is no RESTORE Act money right now. We don’t know when there is going to be money. But when there is money, rest assured, we will be ready. We’re going to be ready to maximize the dollars that we have under the RESTORE Act. We’re going to be ready with a vision through the work of this coast-driven effort, through Go Coast 2020,  through our Go Team leaders, to leverage existing programs, create new visions."

CEO of the parent company of Hancock Bank, John Hairston, says the new visions will be grounded in return on investment of RESTORE dollars. Hairston says as chairman of the tourism committee, he got clear direction from Gov. Bryant to keep a long-term view on all aspects of tourism.

"He’s not asking us as a committee to make a recommendation on where to put a new sand volleyball court to attract a volleyball tournament to the Gulf Coast. What he’s asking us to do is thoughtfully consider whether sports tourism is something that  we can actually grow."

The governor directed the Go Coast 2020 team to submit a plan by January.

 

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