Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann presented a check for more than $9.7 million to the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources on Dec. 1, 2011, marking the largest tidelands amount ever returned to the Gulf Coast to date.

"The tidelands check is a crucial component of preserving the culture of the Mississippi Gulf Coast," Hosemann said. "The Mississippi State Legislature and the Secretary of State's Office are committed to maximizing the benefit of our state-owned lands and the preservation of our coastal areas. This $9,707,662 is an integral part of ensuring that goal."

The tidelands lease revenue was collected on leases along the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the fiscal year that ended June 30. The Tidelands Assessment revenue is a result of House Bill 44, passed in 2005, that allowed land-based casinos on the Coast and required them to pay a tidelands assessment based on a casino's capital investment.

"These Tidelands funds are critical to the cities, counties, (non-governmental organizations) and others along the Mississippi Gulf Coast," MDMR Executive Director Bill Walker said. "These funds provide for access projects that allow our citizens and visitors to better enjoy our marine resources and waters. These funds provide for research and academic programs that better inform our public about the value of our marine resources to the Gulf Coast and to Mississippi as a whole. These funds allow us, in certain instances, to provide indirect assistance to tourism and economic development, to directly assist in environmental conservation, and to leverage federal funds.

"The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources looks forward to working with the Secretary of State and the Mississippi Legislature to continue to use these funds to the betterment of the environment, economy and quality of life along the Mississippi Gulf Coast."

As Secretary of State, Hosemann negotiates tidelands leases on behalf of the state. Traditionally, the Mississippi Legislature appropriates the lease revenue for specific projects. Rent is collected from tidelands leaseholders by the Secretary of State, and then returned to the MDMR at the end of the fiscal year.