Old Bay Bridge Finds A New Purpose Underwater

Work on the new Bay Bridge is moving right along. The concrete and twisted metal from the old bridge is gone now, but there's plenty of other rubble around that Congressman Gene Taylor says could be building blocks for the future.

On Monday, the congressman took a boat ride to get a closer look at the breakwater under construction near the mouth of Bayou Caddy.

"We've had a lot of trouble keeping it deep enough for the shrimp boats to get in and out," Taylor said.

The building blocks for the project are pieces of the old Bay Bridge. The Army Corps of Engineers says that rubble will prevent the channel from silting in so quickly and give boaters the navigational depth they need. It will also protect the shoreline from heavy wave action.

"And in future years, when we do maintenance dredging with the Corps of Engineers, we're going to take that dredge material, dump it behind here and actually grow that marsh back out to where it would have been 50, 60 years ago."

The congressman then stopped by the Square Handkerchief Sholes fishing reef. Broken bridge parts were dumped there as well.

"When I was a kid, there was a natural reef out here called Square Handkerchief. It had been there for thousands of years, composed of small shells," Taylor remembered. "And sometime in the late 50s, early 60s, the concrete companies out of Louisiana dredged it up. And so what we're trying to do is jump start the rebuilding of that."

Over time, Taylor said, the reef will become the perfect habitat for marine life of all kinds, and an excellent spot for fishing .

"We wanted to see to it that something good came out of the storm."

Congressman Taylor said crushed concrete is going for about $20 a yard, so there's a real market for storm rubble.

The remnants of the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge will be used shore up the south side of Deer Island.

This isn't the first time the government has used storm debris to rebuild reefs. Taylor said Alabama used the broken bits of the Dolphin Island Bridge to do the same thing after Hurricane Frederick in 1979.

by Al Showers