Local Fishermen Start Cleaning Biloxi Bay

Local fishermen have started the process of ridding Biloxi Bay of tens of thousands of cubic yards of debris left behind by Hurricane Katrina. Monday was the first day of a 120 day marine cleanup that also includes St. Martin and Davis Bayous.

The U.S. Coast Guard is overseeing the work. Coast Guard officials say the Biloxi Bay cleanup is the latest of several projects up and down the coast line to get out what Katrina put in the water. Cleaning Biloxi Bay has its own challenges.

Half a dozen boats left the D'Iberville Marina at 7 a.m. Before noon, two were back loaded down with debris.

Ens. James McKnight said, "The contractor has six boats today. They do anticipate putting more boats in the water. One thing that's really nice is that it's all local fisherman working for the contractor so it's really good for the people of this area."

The fishermen hauling storm debris out of Biloxi Bay have a lot of work ahead of them over the next four months. On Monday, the Coast Guard could only guess how much.

"The estimates are around 17,000 cubic yards," said Ens. McKnight. "We suspect that there's more, but we won't know until we get it all out."

The Department of Marine Resources organized the clean up. FEMA is paying for it. Coast Guard officials say their job is to make sure it's done right.

Ens. McKnight said, "Every job has its own little nuances that make it different. Back Bay is a large area. You go from Gulfport all the way to Ocean Springs on Back Bay so it's a large area."

Once Biloxi Bay, St. Martin Bayou and Davis Bayou are clean, officials say boaters will have fewer worries about dangers just below the surface.

"I really hope it becomes a safer water way," said Ens. McKnight. "One thing the Department of Marine Resources has been doing is advertising that there is a lot of obstruction in the water and hopefully this is going to get rid of 99 percent of it. The other thing I'd like for it to do is just make the entire area a better place to come visit. "

Coast Guard officials say the 120 day contract may be extended for weather or other delays.