JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The Department of Marine Resources is building an island in Jackson County. It's a 17-acre site that will eventually get much larger and connect with nearby Round Island.
One DMR official calls it the "ultimate recycling project." That's because the department is using dredge spoils to create this new island habitat.
What was once considered waste material is now being used to restore the coastal ecology.
As we approached the 17-acre island, it looked like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's movie, "The Birds." Hundreds of brown pelicans and other species have taken a liking to this man-made habitat.
"Although this site will eventually vegetate over, they're great in the interim for nesting birds. This summer, we had thousands of birds out here. We had royal terns, black skimmers, least terns, several other species, and it was one of the most productive areas on the Gulf Coast this summer," said Ali Leggett, Coastal Preserves Director for the DMR.
All of the new land was created with dredge spoils. Waste material that was once hauled inland or offshore for disposal can be beneficial for island building.
"This is restoration at its best, I think. Taking beneficial use materials, dredge spoils and then creating habitat. So, this is an example of that," said DMR Executive Director Jamie Miller.
Nearby Round Island was 130 acres in 1890. Erosion has reduced it to just 25 acres today.
The newly created island will eventually join the old.
"It's been exciting to see it happen. Round Island over the years has been deteriorating and deteriorating, and it's nice to see this coming together and especially the future plans," said CMR Commissioner Steve Bosarge.
Those plans call for using dredge material from a Pascagoula ship channel project to expand this 17 acres to more than 200.
"They're actually widening the base depth of the channel, so we're going to be getting what's called new cut material, which is really the highest grade of dredge material and really perfect for building some island," said project manager George Ramseur, with the DMR.
CMR commissioners liked what they saw on their visit to the man-made island.
"It's a good thing for Jackson County, as well as the state," said Commissioner Shelby Drummond. "I think I'll have a nice fishing place one of these days, too."
Ramseur said such restoration projects are needed to battle the ongoing loss of coastal habitat. Erosion and development have claimed some 10,000 acres of island and marsh habitat along the Coast since the 1950s.