Recent storms a major set back for Hancock Co. beach restoration

By Al Showers - bio | email

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Hancock County leaders estimate Hurricanes Gustav and Ike dumped more than 100,000 cubic yards of debris on Hancock County's beaches. So far, work crews have removed a little less than half of it.

"The beach was heavily damaged. Truthfully, it was truly a real mess," Chancery Clerk Tim Kellar said.

Even areas along the beach road were no match for the constant heavy wave action the storms brought.

"Where we did not have sand beaches is where we had the most extensive damage."

Early estimates are the beaches lost between 200,000 and 300,000 cubic yards of sand to erosion.

"Whether we use the sand and truck it in, or whether we go after a permit to pump in the sand beach, that still not decided," Kellar said. "The sand dune fences were all destroyed, as well as the sand dunes. In addition to that, the plants that were planted into that for the erosion control. The plan is to go back and re-establish those."

Kellar estimates Gustav and Ike did more than $6 million worth of damage to Hancock County beaches this go around.

"Right now it looks like FEMA will pay 75 percent of that. MEMA will pay an additional 12.5 percent, and it will be left up to the county for the additional and final 12.5 percent of that cost."

The goal is to have the repairs made and the sand back on the beach by Spring of next year, just in time for tourism season.

As for replacing the sand that was lost during the two storms, county leaders are trying to determine the most cost effective way to replenish the beaches. They know trucking sand in would be faster, but finding a sand source on the water's bottom and pumping it onto the beach may be less expensive.