Miss. officials: no objection to loggerhead proposal

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi officials say they won’t have any problems if beaches in the state are named critical habitat for endangered loggerhead sea turtles.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed nearly 750 miles of beaches from North Carolina to Mississippi as protected habitat.

Officials in South Carolina have said that could make it harder and more expensive to replenish their beaches because the work would have to be done in winter. About two dozen islands in four parts of South Carolina are listed in the proposal made public in July.

In Mississippi, only Petit Bois and Horn islands are listed.

“It doesn’t sound like it is going to hamper us much here,” said Harrison County Sand Beach Director Chuck Loftis.

In more than 20 years, he said, he has seen only a couple of sea turtle nests on the county shores. Those areas were roped off and people were kept away, he said.

Petit Bois and Horn islands are part of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Park superintendent Dan Brown said beach replenishment for the barrier islands is always scheduled outside of the nesting seasons for birds and turtles.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains shipping channels and the one that has the greatest impact on the national seashore islands is the Pascagoula shipping channel. Brown said the dredge spoils are placed west of the shipping channel — almost where nature would have placed them anyway — in the areas around Sand Island.

“From our perspective, it’s important to do that type activity outside nesting season, not only turtle nesting season, but shorebird nesting season, so as not to disrupt the various species,” Brown said.

The Corps of Engineers is also putting millions of cubic yards of sand to rejoin East and West Ship islands. The seashore also requested that work be done outside nesting season.

“There is some restriction in timing, but it hasn’t precluded those activities from taking place,” Brown said. “We had to make sure that it was done in an environmentally sensitive way for it to not impact the turtle and shorebird nesting activities.”

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