MOBILE, Ala. – District has begun the first phase of an approximately $349 million project that will reduce erosion and build stronger hurricane barrier off the coast of Mississippi.
Ship Island, a barrier island off the coast of Mississippi, was cut in half when Hurricane Camille raged through the Gulf Coast in August 1969. The resulting 2.4-mile breach that now divides East and West Ship Islands is known as Camille Cut.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is partnering with the State of Mississippi and the National Park Service, which owns the island, to restore the island to its pre-hurricane configuration, closing in the Camille Cut and enhancing the sediment budget of what is currently East Ship Island.
“This is a 2.5-year project, which is divided into five phases, explained Dr. Susan Rees, program manager for Mobile District’s Coastal Resiliency Program. “Right now, we are in the first phase, building a template in the breach [Camille Cut] that we will then fill in.”
Phase Two will be filling in the template for the closure of the breach. Phase Three will be building out the shoreline by placing sand on the southern side of East Ship Island. In Phase Four, the district will place a fine-sand cap – about one million cubic yards of sand – on the Camille Cut closure. And, Phase Five will be planting vegetation on what was formerly the Camille Cut.
Dredging began Dec. 7, more than 109,000 cubic yards of sand have been placed to date. Mobile District is employing the largest and one of the newest dredges in the American fleet, the Ellis Island, a hopper dredge, which has the capacity of carrying 15,000 cubic yards of sand. The Ship Island restoration project is the inaugural mission for the Ellis Island. The dredge crew is working up to employing the Ellis Island to dredge at its maximum capability of placing 30,000 cubic yards of sand in a day. Over the course of the project, the District will place 19.6 million cubic yards of fill sand on the island.
The island serves to reduce wave energy that strikes the coast of Mississippi during storm events. It is also home to several species of endangered birds and turtles, as well as migratory birds and nesting Bald Eagles.
In 2010, Mobile District completed a project to place 600,000 cubic yards of sand, fencing and vegetation to restore the northern shoreline of West Ship Island, which is home to Fort Massachusetts, a military fortress that predates the Civil War.