Bay Council supports curtain system to stop oil



The Bay City Council broke with the Hancock County Board of Supervisors Monday and voted in support of a system of pilings and vinyl curtains aimed at protecting the Bay of St. Louis from oil.

The Council voted 7-0 Monday to support a plan that would use a system of pilings connecting thick vinyl curtains, which would span from Henderson Point on Harrison County shores to a point near the Washington Street pier, with a 200-foot-wide opening for boat traffic, provided the money is available. It’s estimated the system could cost about $3 million and take three weeks to build. City Council members were frustrated the plan first surfaced about a month ago, but to date construction hasn’t started, even as oil is rolling ashore in South Mississippi.

“We have got to try something other than the booms,” Councilman Joey Boudin said.

But Hancock County Supervisor Rocky Pullman said supervisors recently voted 4-1 against the plan and his main concern is safety. He said lights on top of the pilings could go out, or be difficult to see, which could create hazards for boaters. He said boaters often run over lighted beacons and some have been killed when running into bridge pilings.

Pullman said he couldn’t support the plan as described, but he wondered if officials would consider a system of several layers of booming materials, or other proposals.

Hancock County does control some of the area where the piling system could be installed, but Pullman told the Council he wasn’t sure without talking to others if supervisors would try to block the proposal.

“I promise you, I am not going to change my mind,” Pullman said.

Hancock County Supervisor Steve Seymour, the lone supervisor supporting the piling system, said the pilings would be lit like the current CSX railroad bridge, which would promote safety.

Though the idea of using the existing railroad bridge to hang the protective materials has been explored, Bay Councilman Doug Seal said likely it would be months before CSX would make a decision on whether that could be done. Barnacles on the railroad bridge could also rip booming.

City Council members said they appreciated the safety concerns expressed by Hancock County Supervisors, but something has to be done because time is running short, and may run out, even before the piling system is complete. They said oversight agencies would have to sign off on the plans, which would include evaluations of the safety of the project.

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