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Port of Pascagoula Proposes Widening of Shipping Channel

By Rhonda Miller | Published 11 May 2012 05:01pm | comments

Business leaders say a plan to widen the Pascagoula shipping channel will make the port more efficient. But as MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports, some residents are concerned the project may dredge up oil from the BP spill.

Deputy Port Director Allen Moeller points to a map of the proposed project during a recent public hearing in Pascagoula. He says the 350-foot-wide shipping channel only allows one-way and daytime traffic - that’s why the project to widen it to 450 feet is necessary.

"The channel is used by tankers. It’s used by bulk carriers. It’s used by general cargo carriers coming to the public docks. It’s used by a lot of tug and barges coming both in to Chevron, in to Mississippi Phosphates. It’s used by ships under construction or for repair at VT Halter Marine. So there’s a lot of traffic going into Bayou Casotte Harbor."

It’s not the amount of traffic that worries marine biologist Ed Cake of Ocean Springs.  

"The concerns that I have are the fact that BP’s submerged oil is probably in the sediments out here that they will be dredging as they widen the channel. And the question is, ' Where will those contaminated spoils be placed' ?"

Colonel Steven Roemhildt  is district commander for the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency in charge of the channel widening project. He said standard protocols are already in place with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Coast Guard in the event that oil is found.

"We all recognize the impact of the BP oil spill. And we recognize that there’s still an unknown quantity of oil out there. How that’s going to affect this particular project, how that affects other projects in the area, we just don’t know yet. It’s a little bit early."

The estimated $35million project will be paid for by Angola LNG Supply Services, which, according to its website, is owned by five international gas and oil companies, including Chevron and BP.

The environmental impact statement is online and the public can submit comments through May 29.


For the proposed Pascagoula channel widening environmental impact statement go to:





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