DMR approves protective fencing around exposed outfalls, marshes - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

DMR approves protective fencing around exposed outfalls, marshes

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) – Absorbent booms are supposed to protect open channels along the beach from oily intrusions.  But the booms have taken quite a beating from strong waves in the Mississippi Sound.  And now, tar patties are washing up very close to those exposed outfalls.

"With the oil that's been coming in over the past few days, it's pretty important that we try to protect these inland waterways and here on front beach," said Harrison County Sand Beach Director Bobby Weaver.  "These open channels extend into the residential areas in the community, where we have open ditches and natural drains."

Weaver said the Department of Marine Resources has approved the county's request to install fabric fencing around eleven open outfalls in Biloxi, Gulfport, and Long Beach.

"It'll allow water to flow through, but it will keep those barriers from oil, debris, or anything of that nature from penetrating," said Weaver. "If we can keep the oil secured out here right on the shoreline of the beach, it makes for a much easier cleanup."

Fences will also go up along fragile marshes in the St. Louis Bay and around an island in the Biloxi Bay. 

"If you get oil product going into the marshes, what impact they have on the vegetation is one thing.  The second thing is the damage from the cleanup. You are having to get people in there, pulling material through there, trying to get oil out of the vegetation," said Weaver.

The fencing, called X-TEX, is the same type being used now to protect the beach and harbor in Ocean Springs.  Harrison County Supervisor Connie Rockco said getting to this point has been a long, frustrating process. 

"The fabric came into the picture about I'd say three to four weeks ago, maybe more. And it has taken us that long to get it approved so we can start the process of putting it up and trying to protect our estuaries," said Rockco.  "The frustration you feel when you hear the same thing over and over and no action."

There is one concern, though. The fencing may not hold up during a bad storm.

"With the higher waves, it certainly will have some impact to it.  But in normal conditions, it will keep the oil outside of what we're trying to protect," said Weaver.

The same type of fencing will also go up around outfalls and marshes in Jackson County and Hancock County. The entire project is expected to cost about $14 million and it's being funded by BP.    

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