Beach Restoration Underway At Ship Island

Gulf Islands National Seashore is adding more beach along the north shore of Ship Island.

The $275,000 project involves moving tons of sand to widen the beach front and create an erosion barrier around historic Fort Massachusetts.

A mix of sand and water blows through a 30-inch steel pipe and onto the north shoreline near the Ship Island lighthouse. The process begins at a dredge anchored just off the western tip of the island.

"It has a pump and a cutter down there that turns and stirs up the bottom. A big vacuum sucks all the sand up and puts it in that pipeline," said Keith Stokes of Weeks Marine Company.

More than 5,000 feet of steel pipe transports the sandy mix to its final destination.

Along with adding more beach front for Ship Island visitors, the replenishment project is of great benefit to Fort Massachusetts, which faces the ongoing enemy of erosion as parts of the north shore slowly wash away.

The initial project plans called for simply shoring up the beach front immediately in front of the fort. It was modified to include an extended stretch of sand.

Henry Snyder is in charge of resource management for Gulf Islands National Seashore.

"We had enough sand that we could extend that 150 feet all the way to the lighthouse to provide a feeder beach to further protect the fort. And that's our anticipation that now instead of eroding, the sand will move smoothly by the fort and maintain that beach buffer that's there and further protect the fort," Snyder said.

The project will help ensure that the fort will be open to the public for years to come.

"It's the puny efforts of humankind, against the inexorable forces of nature."