Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program

A pipe pumps sand into shallow water in the foreground, an island can be seen in the background.
Image from the first day of pumping sand into the Camille Cut between East and West Ship Islands.


East Ship and West Ship islands are undergoing changes as part of the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program (MsCIP). This project will restore the two barrier islands to one single barrier island — Ship Island — and better protect a wild and dynamic environment that is shaped by wind and water and treasured by people.


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Ship Island Project Background

The Mississippi barrier islands are important to our natural, historical, and cultural landscapes. The barrier islands create and maintain sensitive ecosystems that support diverse habitats for wildlife such as birds and sea turtles while also reducing storm damage to our coastal communities. They are also time capsules containing pieces of our human past, like historic Fort Massachusetts.
The Gulf Coast barrier islands are sculpted by nature. Winds, waves, and currents are the natural forces that influence sand erosion, deposition, dune formation, overwash, inlet formation, and shoreline migration. However, past and current human activities are adversely impacting barrier island dynamics.

Today Ship Island exists as two distinct islands — East Ship and West Ship. In 1969, Ship Island was breached and cut in two by Hurricane Camille. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina widened the breach, known as the Camille Cut, and caused significant shoreline erosion. Though hurricanes cut the island in two, years of dredging activity for the Pascagoula shipping channel, located east of the islands, along with the improper placement of dredged sand, is preventing the breach from healing naturally. An estimated twenty-two million cubic yards of dredged sand has been removed from the Pascagoula channel and from the sediment transport system, which transports sand westward along the barrier islands. Without sufficient sand in the system, the breach will remain as a shallow submerged area between the two islands.

The MsCIP was developed in 2009 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), in cooperation with the National Park Service and other Federal and State agencies, to restore the Mississippi barrier islands as part of a comprehensive plan to increase the resiliency of the coast to future storm events and enhance the long-term sand supply in the sand transport system. As a part of this project, approximately six miles of shoreline will be restored between East Ship and West Ship islands — effectively closing the Camille Cut — and dredged sand from the Pascagoula channel will hereafter be placed within the sand transport system.


Project Overview

Visitors to East Ship and West Ship islands during the restoration project will see boats and barges offshore starting in 2017. These vessels will dredge sand from offshore areas and pump it into the Camille Cut and the east end of East Ship Island. Work be conducted in five phases, and will continue through the fall of 2020.

Before pumping begins, the USACE will install a long orange floating tube on the north side of East Ship and West Ship islands. This tube is the top of a turbidity curtain, which extends from the water’s surface to the sea floor and creates a floating barrier that contains and controls sediments. The curtain will help prevent sediments from washing away and from impacting fragile seagrass beds. The curtain will be monitored to ensure no marine wildlife are entangled, and temporarily retained after the project is complete to ensure that seagrass beds are protected.

The USACE will place large pipes on the south side of the barrier islands to transport sand from the dredge boats to the footprint of the restoration areas. The sand and water mixture pouring from the pipes may not look like typical beach sand, but, given a little time for the water to run off and the sand to dry out, the difference between the original sand and the new sand will be unrecognizable. Project planners and environmental experts used a systematic and careful review planning process to assure that all imported sand is compatible to existing island sources including grain size, texture, and color.
The newly formed island segment will then be constructed as a low-level dune system. Sand will be moved to establish a natural beach profile, and native dune vegetation, including sea oats or other grasses, will be planted to help stabilize the newly restored shoreline and create dune habitats. Once established, dune grasses would be expected to trap windblown sand, forming naturally shaped sand contours similar to those of other dunes on the Mississippi barrier islands.


Public Safety

The work area will be fenced off and public access to the area will not be allowed, either by foot or boat. Project personnel will also be on-site to restrict access within the project zone to authorized personnel only. The West Ship Island pier, concessions, Fort Massachusetts, and the south beach will remain open to visitors during its regular season.

Attached is a map of the project area that further illustrates where project activities are expected to take place. Personnel from the park’s Science & Resources Stewardship Division will be closely monitoring the project. For any questions or additional information, please contact the park at guis_information@nps.gov or contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at mscip@usace.army.mil.


Last updated: April 11, 2018

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