Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has received the deed to 492 acres of Cat Island from BP. The state now owns 718 acres of the island.
BP acquired the acreage, which is valued at approximately $13.7 Million, from the Boddie family in 2011.
The Hattiesburg American report downplays the cost to Mississippi taxpayers.
“The full cost of the transfer of the land to the State is being paid by the federal Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program. The program is administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Congress created the Coastal Improvements Program after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to restore the Mississippi Gulf Coast and increase its resilience to future storms. No state funds were expended to purchase this land.”
The claim that no state funds were expended in the transfer is a clever sleight of hand that looks right past the obvious. For starters, the full cost being covered by the Coastal Improvement Program means that money is no longer available for other restoration projects. Secondly, the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) will oversee the day-to-day maintenance of the Cat Island property.
Since DMR is a state agency, and since maintaining property always carries with it a cost, then it is to be expected that adding several hundred acres to the agency inventory will require DMR to expend additional resources.
“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.
However, since Cat Island is at the furthest southwest corner of Mississippi’s boundary and only accessible by water, the commitment from Mississippians isn’t likely to be quite as wide spread and excited as Miller’s celebratory comments suggest.
The truth is an overwhelming majority of those who provide the revenue for this project will never come close to Cat Island. Wouldn’t the formation of a non-profit or a conservation foundation have been able to accomplish Hosemanns and Millers goal for the island without putting the taxpayers across the state on the hook?
Not to be outdone in his statement to the media, Hosemann tried to paint the acquisition as an historic event that our “grandchildren’s grandchildren” would be able to enjoy. And just to be sure the over-exaggeration was fully understood, he used the word treasure, not once but twice.
“After two centuries, Mississippi is getting its island back,” Hosemann said. “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 beautiful place.
But when a guy obviously as ambitious as Hosemann is to run for higher office begins overpitching the transfer of a land deed as somewhere near the historical equivalence of the signing of the Magna Carta, one has to wonder if he hasn’t spent a little too much time talking to cameras. Of course, Hosemann has to see that, at 69-years old, his window of opportunity for a higher elected office is getting smaller by the day.