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.

USACE

Ship Island (formerly known as East Ship and West Ship islands) has been restored as part of the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program (MsCIP) to 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

Sculpted by winds, waves, and currents that influence sand erosion, deposition, dune formation, overwash, inlet formation, and shoreline migration, 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 also serve as time capsules containing pieces of our human past such as the historic Fort Massachusetts.

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, past and current human activities are also adversely impacting barrier island dynamics. 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 remains 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 sediment transport system. Part of this plan included a project to restore approximately six miles of shoreline to close Camille Cut and rejoin East and West Ship Islands to form a single island again. Subsequent phases will include adding additional material to the restored portion of the island, and planting of native vegetation. In addition, future dredging of the Pascagoula channel will place sand within the sediment transport system, to allow the restored island to sustain itself naturally.

 

Project Overview

Visitors to the newly restored Ship Island during the restoration project may see boats and barges offshore. These vessels are part of the fleet responsible for dredging sand from offshore areas and pumping it into the restored area. Large pipes on the south side of the barrier island transport sand from dredges to the restoration areas. The sand and water mixture pouring from the pipes may not look like typical beach sand, but, given 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 use a systematic and carefully reviewed process to assure that imported sand is compatible to existing island sources.

Work is being conducted in five phases, with the project expected to reach completion in Spring of 2021. Phase two, beginning in Spring 2019, and subsequent phases will raise and widen the restoration area. 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 found on the Mississippi barrier islands.

 

Public Safety

For safety reasons during construction, 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 facilities including pier, concessions, Fort Massachusetts, and the south beach in the area formerly known as West Ship Island remain open to visitors during its regular season.

Personnel from the park’s Natural Resources Division are 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: May 22, 2019

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Mailing Address:

1801 Gulf Breeze Parkway
Gulf Breeze, FL 32563

Phone:

(850) 934-2600

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