Army Corps pursuing plans to restore Mississippi Barrier Islands

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi's Barrier Islands provide abundant recreation, and they help protect us from storms.

The Army Corps of Engineers held a public meeting at the DMR headquarters Thursday evening to discuss its plans to help restore the islands.

They are both beautiful and beneficial. Not only do the barrier islands offer abundant recreational getaways, they also act as "speed bumps" for approaching storms.

"The barrier islands really serve as the first line of defense against not only storm events, but also against salt water that is in the Gulf of Mexico," said Dr. Susan Rees, with the Army Corps.

That points to another major benefit of the islands: seafood production.

"They also create a very productive estuary, which is the Mississippi Sound. 85 percent of all commercially caught species and 95 percent of recreational caught species spend some portion of their life in the estuary. So, by having these barrier islands out there, it creates this really rich nursery," said Dr. Kelly Lucas, Chief Scientific Officer for the DMR.

Restoration plans call for shoring up the islands by pumping in some 20 million cubic yards of sand.

"Filling Camille cut between East and West Ship Island. Restoring the southern shoreline of East Ship Island, and then doing some work on Cat Island in the future," said Rees.

Some might argue leave the islands alone and let them drift and change naturally, but keep in mind, things like dredging the Pascagoula ship channel have already interrupted the natural flow of sediment.

"It doesn't go to Horn Island and it doesn't get to Ship Island. So you really kind of remove that sediment's ability to replenish the island in a natural way," said Lucas.

Rees says the Army Corps should start moving sand for the restoration projects late this year.

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