- Associated Press - Friday, August 15, 2014

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - Visitors could soon be able to ride a public boat to Deer Island, just offshore from Biloxi.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann told the Sun Herald (http://bit.ly/1oOuLk6 ) Thursday that his office plans to build two piers on the state-owned island and seek boat operators to ferry passengers back and forth for a few hours or a day.

The state owns most of the island and Hosemann said this opens up the property and may entice tourists to stay an extra day in South Mississippi. It also gives access to a barrier island for those who don’t have the time or money for the longer trip to Ship Island, he said.

Hosemann said the state has set aside $500,000 from money it gets from private entities that lease state tidelands and has drawn plans for piers.

“Our goal is to start driving pilings by the end of the year,” he said.

Mississippi’s Department of Environmental Quality has given a skimmer boats for the ferry. Hosemann says restrooms will be added to the 20-by-40-foot boat.

“We will not build any structures on the island at all,” he said.

The larger of the piers will be almost directly across from the Biloxi Harbor and he said officials in D’Iberville and Ocean Springs also hope to have boat rides from their cities to the island.

A percentage of revenue from the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino goes into the state Tidelands Fund, which Hosemann said now tops $9 million a year. The fund was used to buy the land on Deer Island.

Hosemann also noted that as part of its tidelands lease, the Golden Nugget agreed to spend $500,000 to build a park on Biloxi’s Point Cadet. The park connects under the U.S. 90 bridge to the city’s new Waterfront Park and the Biloxi Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum.

The state also bought 2,500 acres at the mouth of Pearl River about a year ago, and Hosemann said wants to buy the 600 acres the BP PLC owns on Cat Island for ecotourism opportunities. He said BP officials have indicated some interest in selling.

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Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com