Dune project fights erosion, changes beach scenery

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - It's an ongoing battle between man and Mother Nature. Harrison County Sand Beach crews are constantly scraping sand that builds up along the seawall.  Meanwhile, winds keep blowing the sand off the beach and onto Highway 90.

"As the sand moves, there's no obstacle. There's nothing to stop it," Harrison County Sand Beach Director Bobby Weaver said.

Next month, Harrison County will get additional weapons to help fight the erosion problem.  The Army Corps of Engineers will start creating as many as 500 dunes along the 26 miles of sand beach.

"The dunes will help mitigate that, because the sand will get caught up in the dunes and stop and not continue up and build up against the seawall," Weaver said.

Weaver said these dunes will be very different. They come in various shapes, sizes and they're designed with gaps to allow drivers and visitors to enjoy the view of the water.

"You always have these angles, so people coming down Highway 90 will still be able to see all the way to the water's edge," Weaver explained.

The vegetation will also come in a variety of species.

"I think we're going to have 70 percent Sea Oats, about 20 percent Bitter Panica, and we're going to incorporate some of the shrub bushes like the Blue Stem, the Saw Palmetto, things of that nature."

Weaver said the dunes won't solve the erosion problem, but they will help catch the sand.

"The more efforts we do to keep sand on the beach, the better storm protection we have, number one. Number two, the longer periods between re-nourishment, which could be a cost savings."

The vegetation might be planted in two phases:  One in the fall, the other in the spring.  All the plants should be in place by May of next year.

The Army Corps of Engineers started planning the dune project after Hurricane Katrina, to help with storm recovery efforts.  It is part of the Mississippi Coastal Improvement Program. Congress has already approved funding for the project.

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