Reef Restoration Project Will Lure Fish And Anglers To Beach

Working 800 feet from the beach near Kelly Avenue in Gulfport, a crew dumped nearly a thousand cubic yards of crushed concrete and limestone into the bottom of the Mississippi Sound. The culch material will help restore what Katrina savagely took away.

"Hurricane Katrina devastated our reefs by destroying approximately 85 percent of Mississippi's inshore oyster reefs," said Kerwin Cuevas, DMR Artificial Reefs Program Director. "It covered them up with sand, silt, and debris, and essentially just killed the reefs."

In all, 44 inshore reefs were heavily damaged across South Mississippi. This year, the DMR and the Mississippi Gulf Fishing Banks are restoring 28 of them.

"We're putting them right off the beach for people to wade fish.  We're putting them around piers for our pier fishermen, and we're putting them close to the boat ramps for our fishermen that utilize small boats," Cuevas said.

In Gulfport, the concrete rubble actually came from broken slabs, salvaged from storm-damaged homes.

"We're trying to make something good out of something bad," said Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr.

The artificial reefs will attract young oysters. That, in turn, will create habitats for all sorts of fish, and lure anglers back to the beach.

"We want to recreate a community that's better than the day the storm hit us," Warr said. "We didn't have fishing reefs in all of these places. Some of them were there, but we want to have something to say 'All right, we did it right.'"

It will take about two years for the reefs to fully mature and recover.

Crews will finish restoring five more reefs in October. The project will resume next summer, and will continue for the next four years. The project is part of a $37 million Emergency Disaster Recovery Grant by NOAA, to restore marine resources in Mississippi.