Dredged sand to put Deer Island back together

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

DEER ISLAND, MS (WLOX) - Crews are turning back the clock by restoring Deer Island to how it looked more than a century ago. The United States Army Corps of Engineers says the first phase of the project began last week. It includes expanding the Island by hundreds of acres at a price tag of about $14.5 million. Officials say the project is about both practicality and beauty.

"They're moving the equivalent of about 150 to 200 dump truck loads of sand every day and they work 24 hours a day," said Pat Robbins, U.S. Army Corps Chief of Public Affairs.

All day. All night. Workers dredge sand from the channels and pump it onto Deer Island.. piecing together the island that Mother Nature split in two.

"You have a cut here where it's been cut out. Not just with Katrina but with other storms in the past," Robbins said. "So part of the Gulf Restoration Project is to restore this island back to the way it was."

The Corps wants to recreate the Deer Island surveyed in 1850. So after the sand replenishment, the Department of Marine Resources will come in to plant native in grasses and trees.

D.M.R. Director Bill Walker said, "To build some dunes out here to provide vegetation out here that will increase habitat for shorebirds, and migratory birds and a variety of critters that live in the water part. The shrimp, the crab, the small fish. Those kinds of things."

Officials say Deer Island's added 600 acres will help lessen storm damage to the coastline.

"For small storm events, this obviously provides a protective barrier," Robbins said. "Then you have the outer barrier islands that we are also working on in a restoration effort. So it would give you a double layer before anything would actually come ashore."

Congressman Gene Taylor says he knows in time this too will wash this away so he wants to keep the effort going utilizing federal channels.

"What we want to do going forward is when they dredge those channels get the Corps to drop the material that comes from the bottom of the channel on the island or near the island to continue to grow the island," said Rep. Taylor. "It's going to try to wash away naturally so we have to work. Man has to work to keep this island here. "

The Corps says acreage will also be added to the south side of Deer Island. Officials say the contractor has a year to complete the project.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.