Deer Island Shows Storm Scars - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Deer Island Shows Storm Scars

Dead trees are perhaps the most noticeable change on the island post-Katrina. More than 90 percent of the pine trees have died since the storm.

"Most of the trees are dead out here now. And it's a big concern, both from a natural eco system standpoint and an aesthetic standpoint. But what it really represents also is we've lost a lot of structure," said George Ramseur with the Department of Marine Resources.

Those trees not only help block the wind, their root systems literally help hold the island together.

"Katrina was real dry and we had the severe drought afterward. And that seems to be the sense of what happened to most of the trees. They didn't get washed off during the storm. The salt stayed on them, the drought hit, and boom," said Ramseur.

The island marsh system fared far better than the trees. Though scoured a bit by the storm, a four year marsh expansion project managed to escape serious storm damage.

"I think it's about 40 acres that was built there. It was built in '03. And then was let to sit there and consolidate for about a year. And then we had some volunteers come in and plant the marsh grass that's there now," said the DMR's Ali Leggett, during a boat tour around the marsh area.

The island's biggest enemy is erosion. That's why a new breakwater, made with concrete chunks from the old Biloxi-Ocean Springs bridge, was constructed just off the southern shoreline.

"Essentially this is just initial triage. We don't want to get the island to get cut in half, because if that happens then the erosion factors, the ante is up so to speak," said Ramseur.

Things like breakwaters and marsh planting projects will help ensure Deer Island can provide recreational opportunties and help block the impact of storms for generations to come.

Future island restoration will likely include a round of prescribed burns to clear the dead vegetation. A tree planting project will then help restore hundreds of dead pines.

By Steve Phillips

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