Corps Plan Hopes To Restore Mississippi Barrier IslandsBy Evelina Burnett | Published 11 Mar 2014 07:50pm |
The Army Corps of Engineers plans to spend more than $300 million to restore Mississippi’s barrier islands. As MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, the chain of islands along the southern end of the Mississippi Sound are the state’s first line of defense from storms.
The Corps' proposed plan includes restoring the shorelines of Cat Island and East Ship Island, as well as using 13 million cubic yards of sand to fill in Camille Cut. That's the breach formed in 1969 that created an east and west ship island.
The plan also includes new procedures to manage the dredged material that comes out of the Pascagoula Ship Channel. Susan Rees, program manager for the Misssissippi Coastal Improvements Program with the Mobile District Corps of Engineers, says this dredging took away sediment that would otherwise have drifted to the islands.
"So we're trying to replace that sand, all at once, even though we've taken it out over, say, the last 100 years," says Rees. "We're replacing it all at once and making the island more healthy, so then the island is able to respond naturally to those changes in sea level rise or storms."
Rees says the barrier islands restoration should cost between $350 million and $370 million and take about two and a half years.
After that, island visitors will see some big changes.
"Instead of seeing West Ship Island, separated by a three and a half mile cut, and then a highly eroded East Ship Island, you'll see one Ship Island that goes from the western end of West Ship Island to the eastern end of East Ship Island," she says. "On Cat Island, you'll see an expansion of the eastern shoreline."
Terese Collins with the Gulf Islands Conservancy says the islands are important because they provide a barrier against storms and are critical habitats and tourism desitinations.
She says they also help maintain the uniqueness of the Mississippi Sound.
"And that Sound is formed because of the barrier islands, separating the waters of the Gulf of Mexico fromt eh waters coming from our rivers and bays," Collins says. "That water is very, very fertile, and it provides a habitat and a food source for the shrimp, the crabs, the oysters and the fish that live here and that people depend on."
The Army Corps is accepting public comments on the plan through April 21. A public meeting will also be held, probably in early April though a date hasn't been finalized yet.
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