Protective oil fencing coming down across the coast

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - By Steve Phillips – bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Barrier fencing designed to protect sensitive marshes from incoming oil is being taken down. Work crews spent much of the day Wednesday removing large sections of the fabric fence from East Beach in Ocean Springs. And similar work is happening at several locations along the Mississippi gulf coast.

Ocean Springs was the "pilot project" for the fabric, barrier fencing. It's a protective measure that was then adopted coastwide. With the threat of oil washing ashore no longer an immediate concern, the fencing is coming down.

Workers attach large steel chains to lengthy sections of the barrier fence, then use heavy equipment to drag the fencing onto the beach.

Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran says the specialty fencing served its purpose.

"A liquid oil product would not have been able to get through. And I think they prevented any tar balls from going into the marsh. So, they did their job. It was an innovative technique and then it was replicated coastwide," said the mayor.

"It took about four weeks to get through BP. We did here in Ocean Springs the first pilot test of it. They liked the way it held up. It held up to wave action. So, then they decided to fund it coastwide," she said.

Images of thick oily goo tarnishing the marshes in Louisiana helped convince Mayor Moran the barrier fencing was the right thing to do.

"We wanted to do something innovative in order to protect our marshes, our beach where necessary and our estuaries. This is a hydrophilic fabric, so the water could flow through, but it would absorb oil," said Mayor Moran, "We certainly didn't want the type of oil we saw in photographs in the Louisiana marshes. And so this was our attempt to save our beach and our marshes from that type of product."

It's not just in Ocean Springs that the barrier fencing is coming down. It's happening across the coast. In fact, there are four different work crews doing the same thing. And they're not just working on the land; they're also working on the water.

"We're used to dealing with disasters and hurricanes. But this was our first oil spill. In dealing with the various agencies and looking at the various products, what could we do to protect ourselves, that was a new experience. And now we have that under our belts too," said Mayor Moran.

All the fencing in Ocean Springs should be gone in about ten days. The used fabric fencing will be disposed of in a landfill. The steel posts used to anchor the fencing will be recycled.

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