WASHINGTON, D.C. (WLOX) - More than a dozen city leaders, including mayors from across the Gulf Coast, sat down at the White House on Wednesday with Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Commerce officials.
The meeting, which was organized by Pascagoula Mayor Dane Maxwell, was designed to put a spotlight on the impact the freshwater intrusion is having on Coast communities.
“Defining the problem and the impact that we have to the right folks, that’s part of what people understood in this meeting, that there’s really an impact,” said Biloxi Mayor FoFo Gilich. “Not just with killing all the oysters but with my city of Biloxi having 6,000 hotel rooms, and tourism is a big part of that.”
It was a message echoed by all in attendance.
“It was refreshing to see the Coast speaking with one voice from Pascagoula to Bay St. Louis,” said Stephen Burrow, Pascagoula city councilman.
Waveland Mayor Mike Smith said changes to the protocol for opening the spillway should be explored.
“We’re looking at laws that were in place in the ’30s and ’50s, so are they still viable laws today?” Smith questioned.
The mayors believe communication with the Army Corps of Engineers could improve.
“We have a New Orleans district, a Vicksburg district, a Mobile district, and none of those districts speak to each other,” Smith said. “I understand saving New Orleans. We love our New Orleans people but at the same time we have to save our Coast.”
Although the damage, including more than 100 dead dolphins washing up on Mississippi beaches, can’t be undone, the Coast delegation making the trip to Washington is a first step in preventing future problems.
“This all started on the Coast with ten mayors coming together saying this is a real deal and that message was heard,” Gilich said. “We’ve got commitments and, I think, an understanding of what we need to do long-term to put some solutions to it.”
Wednesday marked 76 days that the Bonnet Carré Spillway has been opened this year, setting the record for the most days the spillway has operated in a single calendar year.