HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Hancock County leaders are worried that the county will lose a lot of much needed tourism dollars this fourth of July holiday weekend.
The sand beach replenishment project now underway in the county has much of the beach closed.
Construction crews, heavy equipment and large steel dredge pipes are scattered all over the beach in Hancock County.
"They've got a couple miles of pipeline strung out along the beach all the way from Bay St. Louis to Waveland. They're done with that pipeline, but now they have the task of getting it cut up and hauled out of here. And then to the rough grading on the sand that they've left," said Hancock Co. County Engineer Geoffrey Clemens. "So...they're working on it, and they're trying to get there. But it doesn't look like they'll make the entire beach by the 4th of July."
At least two areas along the beach have been closed by the Department of Environmental Quality due high bacteria levels caused by the sand dredging operation conducted here. That coupled with all of the work going on has left very few areas open for public use.
Clemens said, "With the delays that the contractors had, it's been one thing after another; it's just gone long. So now everybody's in a scramble to try to put the heat on them to at least get a couple of sections opened up in Bay St. Louis, so they will have some of their beach available."
Officials say most of the beaches in Waveland will be ready to open before the 4th of July holiday weekend.
"We'd like to see them on the beaches in full force," said Bay St. Louis Public Works Director Buddy Zimmerman.
In Bay St. Louis, a small section about 400 feet from Ramoneda Street to Bay Oaks Drive will be made available for public use.
"The contractor is removing the dredge pipe right now on the South end of town. We'll probably have a half mile of beach opened to the public," Zimmerman said.
The entire beach restoration project is expected to be completed by mid August.
The DEQ closed two sections of the beach as a precautionary measure.
A spokesman said because of the construction work, they can't get workers into those areas to take samples of the water.