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Beach Cleanup Underway But Will Take Time
by Keith Burton - GCN

Filed 1/2/05

Work crews are sifting the sand on the Beach to remove debris left by Hurricane Katrina, but it is slow work. Harrison County's 26 miles of beach is critical to the Coast's recovery as a tourism destination. The hurricane left tons of debris mixed within the sand that has to be removed.

Contractors are using specially design sand sifting machinery to do the work but it is difficult. The heavy machines, even with tractor treads, must have the help of bulldozers pushing them slowly forward to keep from getting stuck.

The work currently is concentrated on the beach in West Gulfport where debris that was washed ashore from Gulfport's harbor warehouses left stinking chicken, shrimp and pork bellies all over the place.

The equipment will eventually get to all of the beach. The cleanup of the water just along the beach will take even longer. Tires, broken boards from houses, refrigerators and trees lie somewhat buried in the sand just beyond the waterline. Work to get that removed has yet to be started and will likely take several years to get it all out. A multi-agency effort involving both state and federal agencies are to work to get the debris out of the Coast's waterways. (For more information, on that program, click here.)

Harrison County officials say they are spending over $7-million to sift the sand with the big machines, which were brought to the Coast to do the work. FEMA will reimburse the county for expenses connected to the cleanup work. The total estimate for removing the debris from the beach and shoreline is estimated at nearly $25-million, but it is money that must be spent to get the beach back in shape.

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