A fleet of small two-man boats continues to ply the shoreline along the Mississippi Gulf Coast pulling tree debris, chunks of metal and even kitchen sinks out of the mud. At low tide, converted sod-laying machines sift the sand and muck collecting additional rubble deposited by Hurricane Katrina.
To date, and nearly halfway through a 90-day shoreline cleanup schedule in Harrison, Jackson and Hancock Counties, nearly 24,000 cubic yards of soggy debris have been pulled from the shallow waters, including bays and estuaries.
The debris clearing is part of a multimillion dollar U.S. Coast Guard-directed effort funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to make the beach area and shoreline one-half mile into the Gulf safer for public use.
The effort will soon expand out to four miles from shore to remove hazards and threats to boating and fishing in the Mississippi Sound. A half-mile area around the barrier islands also will be cleared to improve conditions for the shrimping industry.
“Removing the debris along the Coast has been a tremendous undertaking,” said Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Interim Director Mike Womack. “This is an important aspect of the recovery because we know that tourism will not fully recover until this mission has been completed.”
“Every day we see signs of recovery from the tremendous impact of this historic hurricane,” said Nick Russo, federal coordinating officer for the Mississippi disaster recovery. “Clearing the shoreline, making the beachfront a safe place to enjoy the Coast, has an uplifting effect on all of us.”
In addition to the U.S. Coast Guard effort, FEMA has approved a $2.3 million grant to the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources for additional debris removal along 600 acres of beachfront in Hancock County. About 5,000 cubic yards of debris is expected to be pulled from the shoreline.