Mississippi Acquires 492 Acres of Cat Island in BP Deal
Gulfport, Miss.—Ownership of much of Cat Island, the westernmost of the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s four barrier islands, is returned to Mississippi today.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, in his role as State Land Commissioner, accepted the deed to 492 acres known as the “East Beach” and “Middle Spit” of Cat Island from BP Exploration & Production, Inc. (“BP”). BP acquired the acreage, which is valued at approximately $13.7 Million, from the Boddie family in 2011.
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.
“After two centuries, Mississippi is getting its island back,” Secretary 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 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.
Since the French discovered the land in the late 1600s, there have been only a few owners of property on Cat Island. 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 (“DMR”), 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.
In May 2016, the State and National Park Service executed a preliminary exchange agreement agreeing to swap “Goose Point,” 28.5 acres on the southernmost tip of the island, for land of equivalent value immediately adjacent to Park Service property. The exchange was made possible by Senate Bill 2438, which was sponsored by State Senator Sean Tindell (R-Harrison) and passed in the 2015 Legislative Session. The House version of the bill was sponsored by State Representative Casey Eure (R-Harrison).
With funding from a settlement agreement with Mitsui-subsidiary MOEX, funds from unused bond proceeds (Senate Bill 2700, sponsored by State Senator Brice Wiggins (R-Jackson County)), and a Tidelands appropriation approved by the State Legislature, Mississippi acquired approximately 200 acres in the middle of Cat Island in 2013 from the Boddie family. The Boddies retain ownership of about 72 acres of property in the middle of the island.
On November 17, 2016, Secretary 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 (2,000,000) 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.
For more information about Mississippi’s coastal resources, or for information about recreation and other opportunities on Cat Island other State-owned coastal property, visit DMR’s website.