GULFPORT, Miss. — BP has bought a part of Cat Island in the Mississippi Gulf of Mexico that includes the east-facing beach.
BP spokesman Ray Melick tells The Sun Herald that the land was bought last week from the Boddie family, which owns a large area of the barrier island in the Mississippi Gulf. The purchase price was not revealed.
The Boddie family still owns island acreage and there are about 30 private lots on another part of the island.
The eastern-facing beach of Cat Island forms the top of the T-shaped barrier island.
The other major land holder is the National Park Service’s Gulf Islands National Seashore, which has about 1,000 acres under federal protection. It is part of the National Seashore chain.
“We have bought much of the private land,” Melick told the newspaper, “the whole stretch of beach that faces east.”
Melick said the company hasn’t decided what it will do with the land, but the purchase will help it expedite cleanup of the islands in the wake of the BP oil spill.
“It’s easier to deal with it when it’s not privately owned,” Melick said.
More than 1,700 tons of tar, oily sand and oiled debris had been collected from the chain of barrier islands as of early March. Work was suspended on all the barrier islands — Petit Bois, Horn, West Ship, East Ship and Cat — so as not to disturb nesting areas for turtles and shorebirds.
In a later statement Thursday, Melick said: “The purchase of this section of Cat Island is in keeping with BP’s commitment to preserve and protect the environment, ecology, and historical significance of the Mississippi barrier islands for future generations.”
National Seashore Superintendent Dan Brown said Thursday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had shown interest in buying that part of the island as part of the Mississippi Coastal Improvement Project, but had not succeeded.
He said he had heard BP would donate that part of the island to Mississippi and ultimately the National Seashore.
“But none of that was in writing,” Brown said. “I don’t believe BP intends to retain it.”
Cat Island is 2,000 acres, named for raccoons mistaken for cats by early explorers.
Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com