Hate those ugly storm water drainage pipes on our beach? They're called "outfalls." Now a more environmentally-friendly – and more attractive – option is slated to replace one in a pilot project.
Here are more details from Robbie Wilbur, Communications Director for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.
Last week, the Shoofly Magazine sent a request to MDEQ for information about a proposed beach outfall project. The following is the response we received from Robbie Wilbur, MDEQ communications director.
Since the creation of the Office of Restoration, MDEQ leadership has frequently heard from the coastal community that the improvement of water quality in the Mississippi Sound should be a high priority for the implementation of RESTORE Act funds.
As part of this ongoing mission, MDEQ’s Office of Restoration has taken a holistic, data-driven approach in determining both the type and location of infrastructure projects that will have the greatest impact. One type of infrastructure project we are seeking to implement is the Beach Outfall Pilot Project.
MDEQ has repeatedly heard during public outreach that the existing beach outfalls are considered to be eyesores and that BP restoration funds should be used to find a solution to eliminate or reduce the number of outfalls on the beach.
In 2017, the Office of Restoration funded the Beach Outfalls Challenge (Challenge) which was an open contest for participants to submit designs for green infrastructure systems which could be installed in place of the existing pipe and culvert outfalls.
In addition to being more aesthetically pleasing, these green outfall designs have the added benefit of treating the stormwater runoff which is channeled through them, thereby helping improve the water quality of the Sound.
Three Challenge winners were selected through an extensive process, which included a panel of judges and thousands of on-line public votes. The three winners were given engineering and design contracts to bring their conceptual designs to shovel-ready status.
The SALT team, comprised of professionals from Unabridged Architecture, Compton Engineering, the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, the University of Southern Mississippi, and Local Office Landscape Engineering, is one the Challenge winners.
Their design would completely remove an existing concrete outfall and replace it with a system of small crescent shaped dunes to capture and filter stormwater runoff from the outfall watershed, removing sediments and bacteria in the process. In addition, a variety of native vegetation would be planted to absorb and metabolize excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the outfall water.
Office of Restoration staff is now in the process of engaging with the local leadership and community of Hancock County to find an appropriate outfall to act as a proving ground for the SALT team’s design. Once an acceptable site is found and approved, full design of the pilot outfall system will be completed and RESTORE Act funding for construction will be applied for through the RESTORE Council.
There will be no local share required for the funding of this construction, and minimal maintenance is expected once the system is established. Given that this is a pilot project, MDEQ will develop a contingency plan with the RESTORE Council in the event that the system fails to work as anticipated.
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