More Funding Needed For Deer Island Project

State officials are trying to raise $250,000 to put a Deer Island dredging and restoration project back on track.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to build 40 acres of marsh with sand and silt dredged from the East Biloxi Ship Channel. The material would be pumped into an area now under about 3 feet of water, with marsh grass planted on the raised area. The project is on hold until the state provides matching funds for the $1 million project.

"We're ready to do it. We have the (federal) funds,'' said Susan I. Rees, the corps official overseeing the project. "We are postponing dredging for as long as we possibly can in hopes of tying that into the marsh creation.''

The corps dredges the Biloxi channels about every three years. The east channel was dredged in 1999.

The state purchased Deer Island from private owners in May for $15 million. The state Department of Marine Resources is working to find money for the marsh project.

Re-creating the eroded marsh on Deer Island would provide a better hurricane buffer for Biloxi, including Casino Row, and create valuable wildlife habitat. The island has been shrinking for decades and the restoration project would return it closer to its original size.

If the state can't fund its share of the project, the dredging will be done anyway, said Rees. If the dredge spoils aren't used to create the marsh, they will be pumped into the Mississippi Sound.