State Sen. Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula, Chairman of the Senate Marine Resources committee, said Friday the Senate gave its approval to Senate Bill 2700, which had already received approval from the House of Representatives.
The bill allows Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann to enter into negotiations to purchase the section of Cat Island, a barrier island which sits about eight miles off the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Approximately one-third of the island is privately held, one-third owned by the National Park Service and the other third by the BP oil company.
It is the hope of officials that after the state purchases the portion privately held, BP will donate its section of the island to the state. The ultimate goal, Wiggins said, is to return the island to the public.
“Cat Island is a vital part of our coastal resources,” Wiggins said. “If the state is successful in its negotiations to purchase a portion of it, we are hopeful BP will donate its portion, which would then put the entire island in the public’s hands.”
The Cat Island purchase would be paid for from excess funds remaining from the state’s purchase of Deer Island, which was completed last year. The state had been paying $1 million per year from Tidelands funds since 2002 for Deer Island.
“The Secretary of State’s office approached the Senate this year with the idea of using the remaining money to purchase Cat Island,” Wiggins said. “The full (legislative) delegation from the Coast was in support of the idea.”
Calls to the Secretary of State’s office were not immediately returned Friday, but Wiggins estimated the cost to purchase the section of Cat Island would be about $200,000 to $250,000 per year over a five-year period.