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Experimental Project to Rebuild Biloxi Dunes Expanding

By Rhonda Miller | Published 24 Sep 2012 11:37pm | comments

Scientists at Mississippi State University say the dunes they’re rebuilding on a Biloxi beach survived the test of Hurricane Isaac. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports the beach experiment uses a simple and inexpensive way to stop coastal erosion.

Executive Director of the Biloxi Bay Chamber of Commerce Tina Ross-Seamans stands on the Biloxi beach where the Chamber’s beach restoration project is paying off in several ways.

 "I think it’s beautiful, watching the sea oats just dancing in the light breeze. It’s just a calming, relaxing scene. I see people over here laying on the beach right now, and another lady about to walk by, just beachcombing.

She says beauty is one advantage of this project that plants dune and marsh grasses to hold the sand in place.

Mississippi State professor of landscape architecture Peter Melby, one of the designers of the project, says there’s a financial payoff that’s important  in these tight economic times.

"The beach washes away every eight to 10 years and it costs nine or 10 million dollars to replace. So we’re trying to figure out if there is a way to manage the beach, so the sand doesn’t erode into the Mississippi Sound and blow onto highway 90, and we’ve pretty much figured out how to do that."

Safety is another payoff.  Winds often blow sand across Highway 90, which can make driving hazardous along the popular Beach Boulevard.  But on the other side of these rebuilt dunes, almost no sand has blown onto the road.

The co-designer of the project, agricultural and biological engineering professor Tom Cathcart, says Hurricane Isaac proved again replanting the dune and marsh grasses is keeping the beach from  washing away.

"The folks in Biloxi originally gave us that site because it was such a bad site that we couldn’t make it any worse. It was a topographical low point, subject to flooding, subject to terrible erosion. Within about four or five years of using the native plants, we took that local topographical low point and it became the local topographical high point."

The project to restore dunes and marsh grass along the shoreline is on an experimental site about 1,000 feet long. The project is expanding. Next month, a section of beach about 2,000 feet long will be added in East Biloxi.

Rhonda Miller. MPB News. Biloxi.





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