Biloxi and Harrison County are within their rights to construct a pier at Veteran’s Avenue without a tidelands lease from the Secretary of State, according to a ruling filed Monday by Harrison County Chancery Court Judge Jennifer Schloegel.
Secretary of State Michael Watson’s office had sued, claiming a tidelands lease was required for the pier and that the office is in charge of the sand beach, not the Harrison County Board of Supervisors. In a statement released today, Watson says he’s disappointed in the ruling and wants a review before the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Watson’s statement reads:
I am disappointed in the recent ruling and on Tuesday filed an appeal requesting a review of this decision before the Mississippi Supreme Court. I grew up on the coast, want to see it prosper as much as anyone, and offered a rent-exempt lease for this project that was rejected.
The legislature named the Secretary of State as trustee of the state’s Public Trust Tidelands to protect the interest of all three-million Mississippi citizens in state-owned property along the coast. All agencies and governing bodies should abide by the laws governing the use of state-held lands as written by the legislature.
I believe the recent ruling is inconsistent with existing law and prior court decisions; therefore, it is my sworn duty as Trustee to ask the Mississippi Supreme Court to have the final say.