Work Underway To Restore Bay St. Louis Beachfront

It could be up to two years and cost more than $50 million to restore Hancock County's devastated beach front. The county engineer says the biggest and most costly hurdle will be rebuilding the beach road and replacing the utilities unearthed and destroyed by the storm.

Before August 29th, Jay Macaniff owned a gift shop near the beach front in downtown Bay St. Louis. He's watching the first sign of recovery in the area since the storm - debris removal.

"I'm hopeful about downtown. I hope that the plans that have been put in place will occur quickly," Macaniff said.

It's unlikely much will happen quickly because of the magnitude of the destruction. The entire 13 mile stretch of county shoreline from the Bay to Lakeshore sustained some type of damage. The worst of it is in downtown Bay St. Louis.

"It was worse then anything or any scenario you could come up with in your head. Every component of the infrastructure was damaged," county engineer Geoffrey Clemens said.

First, a temporary road must be built.

"It's really not designed for public use. It's more to provide access to citizens that have front beach driveways in the areas so heavily affected, as well as emergency vehicles. So it will be a restricted use dirt road or gravel road," Clemens said.

Next, the focus will turn to the sand beach.

"We've actually got more sand now than we had before the storm. The bad side of that is it's all in the wrong places."

Crews will reclaim the displaced sand, sift it for debris, then spread it out again.

To help revamp the beach business district, plans are to raise the seawall to road level and push it back closer to the water.

"By moving it out, it will also give additional buildable space in the downtown area to have a little business district and also offer some areas for parking and pedestrian access, such as boardwalks that will follow the seawall. The end result will be a whole different looking area from around Washington Street in Bay St. Louis down to Highway 90."

Clemens knows accomplishing all of that will take a very long time. For now, the immediate goal is to get a few areas of the beach ready to enjoy before summer ends.

FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and federal highway funds will pay the $50 million price tag for rebuilding the beach, seawall, replacing utilities and building a new Beach Boulevard. Just replacing of the road will cost $30 million.

by Al Showers