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West Ship Island's beaches to be restored

GULF OF MEXICO — Superintendent Dan Brown announced, as part of the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program, Gulf Islands National Seashore and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in cooperation with the State of Mississippi are undertaking a sand re-nourishment project on the north shore of West Ship Island beginning approximately Aug. 1.

The work is expected to be completed by the end of October.

The purpose of the project is to restore beach that has been lost to erosion through storm action and active shoreline processes and stabilize the island. These two actions will also provide enhanced protection to historic Fort Massachusetts, which is currently in danger from the encroaching sea.

Sand for the project will be taken from the old abandoned Gulfport navigation channel.  A systematic and careful review has been undertaken as part of the planning process to assure that all sand placed is compatible to existing island sand including grain size, texture, and color. It is expected that in time the sand placed on the beach will be indistinguishable from the sand already there. Unusual concentrations of sea birds are to be expected in the discharge area of the pipes due to aquatic organisms that will be unavoidably mixed into the slurry.

Dredges will be used to remove sand from the borrow area and pump it onto shore through 16 inch pipes. The pipes will place a slurry of sand and water on the beach where bulldozers and other construction equipment will be used the move the material and shape the shoreline. As part of the project, the rip rap and other foreign materials located to the north of the fort will be removed as well.

During the project a turbidity barrier, consisting of woven geotextile sheets stretching from a floating tube on the surface to a sand-filled anchoring tube on the sea floor, will be in place around submerged aquatic vegetation beds. The purpose of the turbidity barrier is to protect submerged aquatic vegetation from sediments that might otherwise enter this critical habitat during construction. The turbidity barrier will be erected prior to construction and remain in place 60 days after project completion.

For public safety purposes there will be fencing and personnel on site to restrict access in the project area to authorized personnel only. Public access will not be allowed in work areas. The pier, fort, concessions and south beach will remain open for visitors during this time.

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