Bayous, canals to get much needed dredging

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - One hundred miles of bayou's and canals on the coast will receive some much needed dredging as part of The Department of Marine Resources Coastal Improvement Project. The first phase of the $40 million project is slated to start in Bay St. Louis in about a month.

Charles LaFleur can't wait. He says getting his boat through the canal in his Shoreline Park neighborhood gets tougher each year. Every storm that comes through dumps sediment, filling in the canal.

"Where the canals used to be eight feet deep, they're now four and three feet deep," LaFleur said. "So you have to trim your motor way up. You get hung up, or the people who have larger boats sometimes can't get in the canals. And in the winter time with these low tides, it's impossible."

"Those canals have never been dredged, never been maintained, since they were created back in the late 50s and early 60s," said Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame.

Of the 100 miles of bayous and canals in waterfront neighborhoods across the coast, 44 miles of those canals are in Hancock County. Dredging the canals is not just about getting boats in and out. It's about protecting people and properly from flooding.

"If we can get them dredged to six to eight feet in some areas, of course, that's going to create some side benefits," the mayor said. "But the primary purpose of this project is to get them reopened as drainage out-falls as a flood prevention."

The first phase of the work will cost $20 million. The money is coming from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' post-Katrina project fund, after things like the Bay St. Louis Seawall came in below cost.

"We know that the possibility of getting it done now is probably the only opportunity we're going to have to get this done in our lifetimes."

The second phase of the dredging work will cost another $20 million. The Department of Marine Resources must now find the money to pay for that portion of the work.

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