Researcher says Harrison County beach is shrinking

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Experts say Harrison County's beach is shrinking and will continue to do so without intervention. Since Hurricane Katrina, the coast has been plagued with the problem of large amounts of sand blowing onto Highway 90. On Saturday volunteers planted hundreds of plants to help control erosion.

Six-year-old Josh Simpson and his brother Luke went to the beach Saturday morning to do their part to help the environment.

"Because I wanted to help the Earth and help the beach," Josh said as he helped plant sea oats.

About 50 volunteers planted native grasses and trees along the beach across from Miramar Park. The Biloxi Bay Chamber is helping to oversee the project.

Executive Director Tina Ross-Seamans said "Today we're planting 1,300 sea oats. And the way they're being planted will actually form natural dunes."

The plants aren't just for aesthetics but also to keep sand off Highway 90 and prevent a hazard for drivers.

"In order to hold the sand in place, you need plants and plant roots," said Dr. Pete Melby,  Mississippi State University professor of landscape agriculture. "That acts as armor to hold the beach together and keep the sand off the highway."

However, Dr. Melby says sand blowing onto Highway 90 is just part of the erosion problem. Incoming waves from the  Mississippi Sound are also washing away beachfront. So in areas not heavily used by visitors, plans are to plant grasses all way to the coastline creating marshes and habitat for crabs and fish.

Dr. Melby said "We are losing one and a half feet of beach width a month in the three areas that we've been measuring for 13 months since renourishment. We're hoping we'll be able to plant edge erosion control plants that will help to keep the beach in place. We're optimistic but we think we can actually grow the beach southward with these beach edge plants. "

Money to cover the cost of today's planting came from the Department of Marine Resources Tidelands Fund.

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