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Shrimpers Say Parts of Ocean Springs Harbor Renovation Could Hurt Their Livelihoods

By Rhonda Miller | Published 25 Jan 2012 01:10am | comments
At Ocean Springs Harbor, shrimpers say anchors and equipment will be a safety harzard if a sidewalk is put along the bulkhead and pedestrians are drawn to the working waterfront.

Some Mississippi Gulf Coast shrimpers are concerned that renovations at Ocean Springs Harbor could hurt their livelihoods. MPB’s Rhonda Miller has more on the disagreement.

"All them anchors are going to be over that walkway, every one of them, all summer long, what you got is a liability, you got a liability ..."

 At an informal meeting of members of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors and the Ocean Springs Harbor Commission Tuesday, shrimpers said they feel like they’re being edged out of the harbor by a renovation project. Robert Ross is a seventh-generation fisherman who thinks prettying things up will put pedestrians first.

"I’m a commercial fisherman. This is my boat. I've been in here. This is how I feed my family. I mean, it’s not a game to me. It’s not something to make the harbor look pretty. I mean, I’m not a yacht. I make my living right here," Ross says. "This is how I feed my family. I've got a wife and five kids."

Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran, who was not at the meeting, says she believes the project has been designed to make sure shrimpers can still load their equipment easily and sell shrimp from the back of the boat.

"I don’t see how it’s inconsistent to have better lighting and public access to the back of the boats for commercial and for recreation," says Moran. "I’ve been going there my whole life. We had a recreational boat there, but there  were also shrimp boats there. They’ve been there as long as the harbor’s been in existence."

Shrimpers say a major obstacle to their work, and a safety hazard, is a planned sidewalk running along the bulkhead. They asked for the sidewalk and lights to be moved across the road. Harbor Commissioner Danny Jalonovich reached the boiling point when he heard the $4 million project has been approved by FEMA and MEMA and several engineers.

"Cuz none of them have been down here watching these guys work. It’s all by computer and it’s all by books," says Jalonovich. "It ain’t no common sense been put into this damn sidewalk."

John McKay is a Jackson County Supervisor.

"The county is trying to walk a fine line between the fishermen and the city," says McKay. "The city wants aesthetics, the city wants a beautiful harbor. The fishermen want a working harbor. We want to make sure, as a county, that we maintain a working harbor."

The result of the meeting is that officials will see if changes can be made, but they made no promises.



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