Hurricane Debris Still Lurking In Coastal Waters

The next phase of the Coast Guard's marine debris removal program begins Monday. This time, the clean up will concentrate on the Mississippi Sound, between a half mile and four miles from shore.

So far, boats have hauled more than 78,000 cubic yards of hurricane trash out of area waters. However, waterways that have already been dragged still have debris in them.

Corrie Eleuterius learns that lesson every time he takes a tour group out into the Mississippi Sound.  On Wednesday, a compass helped steer the Biloxi shrimp tour boat into the Biloxi channel. What the compass couldn't navigate around were the hurricane obstacles still sitting on the floor of the channel.

"I don't know who's in charge of cleaning the channel out. But so far it's been me," laughed Eleuterius.

He knows the answer to his query is the Coast Guard. And he knows the channel has been swept twice since Hurricane Katrina dumped debris in the Mississippi Sound. However, the shrimp nets Eleuterius uses on his daily tour have still taken quite a beating this spring.

"We've probably pulled two or three dump truck loads of trash, stuff I could actually lift up and get on the boat and bring back into the dock," he said.

Sure enough, as his 11:30 tour crowd watched, a shrimp trawl came out of the water, and so did a few surprises. A tree limb, a deck chair and a ladle were all snatched out of the Mississippi Sound.

"Oh boy, that's a Katrina treasure right there," joked Eleuterius.

Clean up teams somehow missed the debris on its drags of the water.

Chris Ryan works on a boat that's done a lot of the marine debris removal. He was at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor Wednesday, preparing for a clean up voyage next week.

"You just clean it up and clean it up, and it just comes right back," Ryan said.

And as Corrie Eleuterius has found out, quite often, the debris gets snarled in a trawl.

"Two or three times a week, I have to go through this thing and fix all the holes in it," he said.

After this trip, Eleuterius had another patch up job to do. An old crab trap ripped through his net.

"We get holes in here that you could probably put a bath tub in, through it without even touching the sides," he thought.

Chris Ryan wouldn't be surprised if a bath tub got tangled in a shrimp net.

"We catch refrigerators, microwaves, anything you can think of we catch," he said.

And that sort of debris in the water can make a shrimp trip, even a one hour voyage for tourists, an expensive proposition.

"This is my second net this year that I've already tore up," said Eleuterius.

The debris he hauled back to port was another one of those hurricane reminders that the Biloxi Shrimping Tour boat couldn't avoid on a foggy day near the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor.

So far, clean up crews have pulled about 13,000 cubic yards of debris out of the Mississippi Sound. According to the DMR, an additional 65,000 cubic yards of hurricane trash have come out of inland waterways.

A DMR spokesperson says the plan is for marine debris clean up to continue through the fall.