The Sun Herald, 2/11/9

U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor said Wednesday that South Mississippians shouldn’t panic over a proposed federal private property buyout plan that’s moving toward Congress for funding.

In fact, Taylor, D-Bay St. Louis, said that the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Plan has some excellent aspects, such as restoration of the barrier islands. And even though the plan has shrunk somewhat in scope since its origin, it is “still a very, very ambitious project,” he added.

Taylor said he has told officials in the corps’ top echelon that any property buyouts must be voluntary on the part of the sellers, and any mandatory buyout by the government will not fly. “Given the sensitivities, there was a very high level of concern. They got the message,” he said.

When the corps brought its buyout proposal to public meetings in the past, some property owners and public officials feared from comments they heard that citizens may be forced to sell their land to the government. “At least one person at the corps misspoke,” Taylor said. “I want to make it abundantly clear. This is strictly voluntary.”