Hurricane Katrina Forest Recovery

As we work together to tackle the historic challenge that Hurricane Katrina has presented to the forestry communities of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, we hope that this blog will be a valuable resource and tool.

Thursday, April 27

Court Adopts Emergency Guidelines

The Mississippi Supreme Court has adopted "Guidelines for Emergency Preparedness Planning," which was prompted by the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the state's court system.
Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr. said, "The guidelines were established to aid each court in Mississippi in the process of developing a unique, local emergency preparedness plan aimed at keeping the courthouse open during emergencies and/or threats, so long as the safety of the public, court officers and court personnel is not compromised."

In the aftermath of Katrina, Chief Justice Smith appointed Justices George C. Carlson Jr., James E. Graves Jr. and Michael K. Randolph to the Supreme Court of Mississippi Emergency Preparedness Committee and directed them to develop guidelines that will aid Mississippi's courts in the development of unique, local emergency preparedness plans. Justice Carlson, committee chair, introduced the guidelines to chancery, circuit and county court judges April 20 at the Mississippi Trial and Appellate Judges Spring Conference held in Robinsonville.

Justice Carlson said that the drastic effect Hurricane Katrina had on the Mississippi judicial system was a reminder of the importance of emergency preparedness. Some trial courts closed due to the damage, and the Supreme Court closed as a result of utility outages. Courts in Hancock and Jackson counties are operating now in temporary facilities. Justice Carlson added, "We have to start thinking about hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, floods, earthquakes, acts of terrorism, bomb threats. What we are trying to do is to make sure that you are able to keep your doors open and operate your court system."

The guidelines suggest that emergency preparedness plans include a means of communicating, an alternative site where court proceedings can be held, advance designation of essential personnel and functions of the court and details for moving staff and equipment. The guidelines noted that protection of court records is vital. The plan should consider temporary or long-term closure.

Justice Carlson said the guidelines are not mandatory, but are suggestions each court can use to develop its own detailed emergency preparedness plan. He said that each court's plan should be tailored to fit local needs.

Wednesday, April 26

MDOT Inspects Coast Drawbridge

After an investigation of the drawbridge of the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge, Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) maintenance crews have determined that the west leaf bascule of the drawbridge has not shifted position. This investigation followed concerns from a number of tugboat captains who had questioned whether the west leaf was changing position, posing a potential hazard to marine travelers.

"In an effort to maintain the open channel for marine traffic, our crews looked at the drawbridge from multiple angles, and we are sure that it has not shifted position,” said Todd Jordan, MDOT district maintenance engineer.

Following the loss of power to the bridge after Hurricane Katrina, the west and east leaves of the bascule have remained in an upright position, allowing marine traffic to continue through the channel. "In recent weeks, MDOT has received reports that one of the bascule leaves was dropping, but we determined that was not the case," Jordan said. "Because the east and west leaves are not at the same upright angle, it could create the appearance of a shift."

Monday, April 24

MS Forest Inventory Assesses Hurricane Damage & Sets Stage for Annual Inventory

The USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station (SRS), is spearheading an accelerated effort to assess impacts to Mississippi forests resulting from Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. Over the next year, the Station’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) unit, in cooperation with local and state forestry agencies, will conduct the Mississippi forests inventory to determine the extent of hurricane-related forest damage. Data obtained will provide an in-depth picture of the overall health of Mississippi forests and set the
stage for the State’s annual inventory.

“FIA’s inventory will benefit forest land managers working toward short- and long-term recovery and restoration of Mississippi’s forests,” said Peter J. Roussopoulos, Southern Research Station Director. The results of this effort will compare current data to the State’s last periodic inventory in 1994 and will establish benchmarks allowing researchers to predict and manage future catastrophic events. FIA initiated preliminary posthurricane work in November 2005 followed by on-the-ground crews in January 2006. Presently, 20 percent of the re-inventory has been completed.

FIA is the South’s continuous forest census, projecting how forests are likely to appear 10 to 50 years from now by developing, analyzing, and maintaining annualized forest resource information for the 13 Southern States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. FIA information helps managers to evaluate whether current forest management practices are sustainable over time and assess whether current policies will affect the next generation’s enjoyment of America's forests.

Annualized inventories began in 1998 and States are added as funding becomes available.

Thursday, April 20

Beach Boulevard Project Progressing

According to the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), it is one step closer to beginning the permanent reconstruction of Beach Boulevard in this Gulf Coast city. Hurricane Katrina heavily damaged the road rendering it impassable to vehicular traffic.
On April 11, 2006 the Mississippi Transportation Commission entered into an agreement with Hancock County and the City of Bay St. Louis. Now the agency will advertise for services related to the design of the project.

Because of the financial blow sustained by coastal cities and counties after Katrina, MDOT was called on to fund and oversee the rebuilding of Beach Boulevard and apply for federal aid reimbursement as needed. Once the 1.2-mile project is completed, the road will be turned back over to Hancock County for maintenance authority, while the City of Bay St. Louis will maintain all utilities.

MDOT Six District engineer Ricky Lee said, "Once a contractor is chosen for the grading and asphalt work, MDOT will oversee all aspects of the construction process. When it is completed, local government bodies will once again own and maintain the road, and the city will regain this important transportation corridor."

Due to the immediate needs of the community, construction is underway now to build a temporary road along Beach Boulevard. Permanent road construction effort is expected to begin later this year depending on the right-of-way acquisition process. That project will begin near Washington Street in Bay St. Louis and continue through the city to U.S. 90.

"We cannot stress enough how important this road is to our city's recovery effort," said Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre. "Commercially, this road is vital to the city's economic livelihood, and it will be good to have our residents back in place."

Tuesday, April 18

Portable Sawmilling Workshop and Demonstrations

The LSU AgCenter, in cooperation with LA Tech University, is sponsoring a Portable Sawmilling Workshop and Demonstrations on Saturday, May 13, 2006, at Idlewild Research Station near Clinton, LA. The workshop is designed to provide information to potential portable mill buyers, and to those already using one.

The workshop will include educational programs on buying your first portable sawmill, how to saw logs on a portable sawmill, comparing log scale and lumber tally, and drying small quantities of lumber. After lunch, participants will view demonstrations by various portable sawmill manufacturers.

The registration fee is $15 if received by May 2 and $25 after that. Lunch, refreshments and handouts are included in the fee.

For more information or a registration form with map, contact LSU AgCenter Extension Forester Brian Chandler at 225-683-3101 or

Tuesday, April 11

Soprema Chooses Coast for Plant

The Harrison County Development Commission (HCDC) recently welcomed Soprema Inc. to the Bernard Bayou Industrial Park on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Soprema is a producer of roofing and waterproofing materials. The company, which was founded in Strasbourg, France, maintains plants in seven locations in Europe and North America. Gulfport will be the second location in the United States with the other in Wadsworth, Ohio.
Gilbert Lorenzo, vice president of Soprema, said, "We are anxious to get started with our construction and the hiring of a local person as plant manager." In addition to hiring all employees locally, the company will also use local contractors to build the plant and office.

The Gulfport plant will produce roofing and waterproofing materials for the Southeast. Although Europe remains its principle market, North America is a major area of expansion for the company.

The HCDC began meeting with Soprema in early 2005, as it was deciding on its second U.S. location. Despite Hurricane Katrina, Soprema recognized the potential in Harrison County and decided to locate in Gulfport.

Soprema proposes to create 50 new jobs with a payroll of $1.8 million per year. The immediate site and plant investment will involve a minimum of $14 million. Bill Hessell, director of property management for the HCDC, said, "This is the type of industry that the county wants to attract due to the creation of new jobs and the added diversity to our industrial base."

Friday, April 7

Bay St. Louis Mayor Makes Statement With Shorts

The Sun Herald

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Mayor Eddie Favre realized he'd lost almost everything but the shirt on his back and his shorts. In a symbolic gesture to draw attention to the situation of thousands in his small town, Favre vowed he wouldn't wear long pants until Bay St. Louis was well on its way to recovery. And he hasn't. Not when he attended the wedding of his girlfriend's son. Not when he met with the governor. Not even on the several occasions he's met with the president of the United States.

"I arrive here at this important school, and he's got short pants on. Eddie, I like a man who sticks to his guns," President Bush once said, according to a CNN transcript. The president's comment drew the attention of David Letterman. "It got talked about on the Letterman Show," Favre told the Washington Post. "He mentioned this yo-yo with short pants who met the president."

"You're wearing shorts!" a female Washington, D.C., radio reporter (quoted in a Washington Post story last week) said to Favre on March 29 at the 62nd annual Radio & Television Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington. The mayor attended the black tie affair at the invitation of CNN correspondent and former Bay St. Louis resident Kathleen Koch, but only after explaining in advance, and with no disrespect intended, why he'd attend only if CNN didn't mind if he wore short pants. "Are you a sports guy? Or are you an eccentric?" asked the reporter, according to the Post story.

"I'm a lunatic," said Favre, sporting white socks, sneakers and a tuxedo top. Smiling, he added, "I'm a mayor." Favre said it's not about disrespect. It's about calling attention to the situation.
"Whatever it takes to get the attention here to solve the problems we have, to get the assistance we need, I'll do it. For the folks here, whatever it takes," said Favre.

And it's working. "Who is Eddie Favre and why was he wearing shorts?" Houston Chronicle political journalist Julie Mason wrote on her Web log recently. To call attention to issues no one wants to raise is Favre's reply. "We've got to get our residents back from out of state. We've got to take care of individuals," he said. "One of the biggest issues for the city is the lost revenue that nobody is talking about."

So when will he kiss the short pants goodbye? A year? Two years? A decade?

"I'm not sure when that point will be. But hopefully when we see it, we'll know it," Favre said. "I would like to think that it will be in our lifetime. That if I get buried in shorts, it will be out of choice. Not out of necessity."

Wednesday, April 5

Butler Snow Releases GO Zone Guide

A guide to incentives for businesses seeking to rebuild, expand or begin operations in the portions of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama that suffered the brunt of Hurricane Katrina is now available from the law firm Butler, Snow, O'Mara, Stevens & Cannada, PLLC.

Portions of the three states comprise the "Gulf Opportunity Zone," or "GO Zone," and are eligible for federal benefits such as bonus depreciation, tax-exempt financing and five-year net operating loss carryback. The Mississippi state government also offers additional incentives, highlighted in the guidebook.

The guide, "The Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005: Benefits Available to Businesses," was written by attorneys at Butler Snow who are taking an active role in recovery efforts, including advising businesses who seek to benefit from the GO Zone legislation.

"We wanted to share our hands-on experience with others," said Steve Rosenblatt, the Butler Snow partner who leads the firm's Katrina response team. "There are significant incentives to encourage businesses to rebuild, expand or begin operations in the GO Zone. Every business looking to expand or relocate should take a long, hard look at the GO Zone."

Businesses and reporters may obtain a copy of the booklet by calling Butler Snow at (601) 985-4104, or by e-mailing

MDOT Gives Update on Recovery Efforts

The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) has released the following list of Gulf Coast transportation recovery efforts in which MDOT was involved during the week of March 27-April 1:

o As of the March 29 deadline, MDOT has received three expressions of interest from firms interested in providing roadway and bridge design services and construction services necessary for the construction of the US 90 bridge over Biloxi Bay and approaches in Harrison and Jackson counties.

o Eight in-ground fuel tanks will be installed at the MDOT project offices in Hattiesburg, Lyman, Ocean Springs and Waynesboro. Each office will have a diesel and gasoline unit. In an emergency, these fuel tanks may be used to supply emergency first responders and MDOT emergency personnel only.

o MDOT is continuing to work with the Gulf Region Planning Commission and the Governor's Commission on the contents of the long range plan update for the coastal roadways.

o MDOT continues the negotiation of ferry landing sites. Pacific Marine Technical Services of Bainbridge Island, Wash., has begun consultations with MDOT in regards to the ferry system.

o MDOT supplied Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi with the Hurricane Evacuation Map for distribution to its internal personnel.

o During the Mississippi Transportation Commission meeting, the commission gave executive director Larry L. “Butch” Brown the authority to advertise, select and negotiate an engineering services contract to expedite the selection of a design consultant for Beach Boulevard reconstruction in Bay St. Louis from approximately 300 feet south of Washington Street to US 90.