Published 2:50 pm Friday, December 9, 2016
Ownership of much of Cat Island, the westernmost of the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s four barrier islands, returned to Mississippi today.
That’s an announcement Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann made to the Rotary Club of Vicksburg on Thursday.
Hosemann, a Vicksburg native, told Rotarians he was happy to be home, and outlined a number of recent events involving his office.
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He touted today’s acquisition of Cat Island as a historic time for Mississippi. Hosemann said in his role as the state’s land commission, he accepted the deed to 492 acres known as the East Beach and Middle Spit of Cat Island from BP Exploration & Production Inc, which acquired the acreage from the Boddie family in 2011. At that time, the property was valued at $13.7 million.
Cost of the transfer of the land to Mississippi is being paid by the federal Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program, which is administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He said in a press release issued Friday morning the program was created by Congress after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in an effort to restore the Mississippi Gulf Coast and increase its resilience to future storms.
“No state funds were expended to purchase this land,” Hosemann told Rotarians Friday.
“After two centuries, Mississippi is getting its island back,” Secretary Hosemann said in Friday’s press release about the transfer of ownership of the island back to the state. “Cat Island is a special treasure because of its natural beauty and the protection it offers the Mississippi Gulf Coast. By finalizing this acquisition, we are ensuring your grandchildren’s grandchildren will be able to enjoy this natural treasure in perpetuity.”
Cat Island is a well-known recreation site used mainly for low-impact activities such as swimming, sunbathing, camping, hiking, fishing, and safe mooring. The island is for the most part untouched by modernity with pine/oak maritime forest, estuarine marsh, sand dunes, and beaches, Hosemann said.
Since the French discovered the land in the late 1600s, there have been few owners of property on Cat Island, Hosemann said in his press release. These include the National Park Service, BP, the Cuevas family, the Boddie family, and some individual landowners, all dating back to the original Spanish land grant in the late 1700s.
“The acquisition of Cat Island’s eastern shore is another example of Mississippi’s commitment to preserving and restoring our most scenic and sensitive habitats. This new acreage will be added to the existing Cat Island Coastal Preserve already under the management of our agency,” said Jamie Miller, executive director of the Department of Marine Resources.
The Department of Marine Resources, a State agency created to protect and conserve marine interests, will oversee the day-to-day maintenance of the Cat Island property.
Since 2012, and including the acreage acquired from BP today, the State has expanded its ownership of the island to more than 718 acres.
On Nov. 17, Hosemann and the Department of the Army entered into a Memorandum of Agreement for Construction of the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Barrier Island Restoration Plan, Cat Island Restoration.
Under the Memorandum, the U.S. Corps of Engineers plans to renourish the eastern beach of Cat Island with 2 million cubic yards of dredged sand. The renourished area will be approximately 250 feet wide and will be between five to seven feet in height, sloping toward the Gulf. Renourishment will restore the eastern side of the island to its pre-1998 condition and add approximately 40 acres to Goose Point which previously eroded below sea level. Completion of the project is expected in 2017.
Hosemann also discussed Mississippi’s part in the recent presidential election. He said 99.9 percent of all Mississippians who voted showed up at the polls with appropriate voter identification.