GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The massive debris removal on Harrison County's beach will begin on Wednesday. Hurricane Isaac littered the 26 miles of sand beach with various marine trash, tons of marsh grasses and even dead animals.
The county is handling the clean-up "in house," with the promise of a 75 percent reimbursement from the federal government.
The beach in Harrison County is critical to the all-important tourism industry on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Now, instead of tourists, the beach is crowded with a storm-blown mess. But clean-up help is on the way.
Tuesday afternoon, MDOT crews moved mountains of sand that blew off the beach. A short distance down Highway 90, workers cleared storm drains of that sand that's everywhere but where it's supposed to be.
Next up, the removal of all that vegetation and debris that covers the shoreline from bridge to bridge.
"We've got roughly anywhere between 50 and 65 thousand cubic yards of debris that we're going to have to remove," said county Sand Beach Director Chuck Loftis.
Picking up and disposing of all that debris will likely take between two to four months at a cost of nearly $4 million. The federal government will likely reimburse 75 percent.
"We just want to make sure we do it right, but at the same time, time is of the essence. And we don't want to be delayed by red tape. We want to get to work. We want to get those beaches clean," said Supervisor Windy Swetman.
Board of Supervisors President Kim Savant met with Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano during her weekend visit. He wants to be certain federal re-imbursement rules remain the same throughout the often lengthy process.
Past experience raises concern.
"And then after we had taken steps to address disaster recovery, then the federal government comes back and says, 'No, that's not what we meant.' All I want is in black and white what's entitled to us. And what's not, we'll take care of," Supervisor Savant explained.
The sand beach director urges locals and tourists to stay off the beach. Not only is it unsanitary, but with snakes and nails and broken glass and who knows what else, it is also unsafe.
Sand beach crews will tackle the busiest tourist sections of beach first, then move on from there.
"Main thing is hauling off the debris. It's a lot of debris and we're just going to take it one day at a time," said Director Loftis.
Board president Kim Savant said all things considered, Harrison County is blessed and fortunate to have made it through Hurricane Isaac with the beach mess and some flooded home