Marine Debris Removal Team Making Significant Progress

"Looks 150 percent better than it did a few months ago. And we're real excited about it," said Irvin Jackson, as the Department of Marine Resources representative surveyed the sparkling waters of Biloxi Bay.

The Coast Guard, FEMA, and the DMR praise the progress that's been made. Not long ago, the waters were a mine field of debris. Hurricane winds and water left a monumental mess and a challenging debris removal assignment.

"We've been working several months here in the bay. And we've pulled out more than nine thousand cubic yards of debris," said Jackson, "I would estimate they're about 75 percent finished."

Randy Lesso and his fellow fishermen are doing much of the grunt work, snagging tree trunks and assorted junk from the waters. He's happy to have a piece of the federally-funded project.

"Yes sir, this is definitely taking care of the bills and getting the kids in school," said the fishermen.

While small boats are the backbone of the operation, heavy equipment is also called on for the big stuff, like storm blown trees that litter the banks of the Tchoutacabouffa River. Or a sailboat that must still be pried from its marshy resting place.

Richard Sharpless is with  the U.S. Coast Guard and is in charge of overseeing the marine debris removal.

"The biggest challenge is getting the debris, some of the heavy objects, out of the water. Cause it's so shallow," he said.

A floating buoy marked the spot where a 25 foot sunken boat has yet to be removed. Progress is plotted just as carefully as the debris.

"In Jackson County, we have finished about a third of it. and currently in Hancock County we're about 60 percent complete there," said Sharpless.

"We hope to be finished by the end of December," he said.

That's great news for the many fishermen and boaters who enjoy the now cleaner waters.

The Coast Guard oversees the project, while private contractors were hired for much of the work. FEMA allocated nearly $200,000,000 to pay for the clean-up of Mississippi's coastal and inland waterways.