The Living Shoreline
- story by Lisa Monti
Work is now under way on a multi-million dollar project to stop erosion and restore a section of remote marshland that is critical to Hancock County’s shoreline and the creatures who depend on it for shelter and food.
Around $50 million in BP early restoration money is paying for the work at Heron Bay, located between Bayou Caddy and the mouth of the East Pearl River on the Mississippi-Louisiana line.
The goal is to restore a safe place where tiny organisms will grow and eventually attract fish, crabs, shrimp, shore birds and other creatures. Fishermen will benefit from the restoration as well.
“It’s definitely going to help with the fishing,” said Marc Wyatt, director of the Office of Restoration in the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.
Beach to Bayou
The “living shoreline,” though, will mostly be out of sight. Even by boat, the durable armor stone structure will be visible only at low tide. There will be markers at high tide so boaters will be able to know the location of the structure.
Two breakwaters will be built on either side of Heron Bay, helping to shore up the “boot” feature that has eroded at the mouth of the bay as the result of wave action that occurs naturally and from boat traffic.
“We received all of the permits and we have initiated phase one and phase four,” said Wyatt. Phase one is the first section of the nearly 6-mile shoreline itself. Phase four is the creation of 46 acres of subtidal reef material to attract marine life.
Wyatt said phase one is set for completion by the end of the year. Next year the two remaining phases of shoreline will be built, and the entire project will be completed by the end of 2017.
The project is inside the 20,909-acre Hancock County Marsh Preserve, which is the largest in the state, and is part of the Pearl River estuary in the western Mississippi Sound.