Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson approved a $33 million Mississippi program that will ultimately bring central sewer and water service to six coastal counties.
The project will be funded by $5 billion that HUD previously awarded the state through the Department's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program. Mississippi intends to lay the groundwork for a larger Gulf Coast Regional Infrastructure Program to meet the anticipated demand of families expected to move further inland in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Mississippi will initially devote $6.5 million to develop a master plan and another $25 million to meet critical needs until the state launches its larger program to build central sewer and water systems in Pearl River, Stone, George, Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson counties.
"Mississippi families will need something more than wells and septic tanks," said Jackson. "The plan HUD is approving today will be a first investment in developing long-term sewer, water and storm drain systems in these Mississippi counties."
"Secretary Jackson is right on target that Mississippi must develop long-term, regional solutions to water, sewer, and storm water needs,” said Governor Haley Barbour. “And I am grateful for his approval of these essential funds."
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many coastal areas in southern Mississippi were without basic services such as potable water and wastewater. State officials expect many Mississippians will relocate to areas within the six-county coastal area that are not prone to flooding and other storm-related damage. Currently, this area does not have adequate water, wastewater and storm drainage infrastructure.
Before Mississippi can undertake its larger regional infrastructure development program, the state must create a master plan to determine the needs for water, wastewater and storm water infrastructure in these six counties. The master plan will include the following:
- Assessment of pre- and post-Katrina water, wastewater, and storm water infrastructure;
- Assessment of projected growth and relocation patterns in the six counties;
- Development of short- and long-term water, wastewater and storm water infrastructure needs
- Development of a prioritization process for required infrastructure
In addition, Mississippi will create a $25 million emergency fund to address immediate and critical infrastructure needs determined by the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).