STATE OF MISSISSIPPI
Phil Bryant, GOVERNOR
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 22, 2016
Contact: Robbie Wilbur 601/961-5277
Melissa Scallan 228/523-4124
Round Island Marsh Restoration Project Begins This Week
(JACKSON, Miss.) – The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) announced today that construction of a berm for a marsh restoration project at the Round Island Coastal Preserve in Pascagoula will begin this week. An anticipated four to five million cubic yards of dredge material from a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ project will be removed from the Pascagoula Channel, with approximately 2.5 million cubic yards placed adjacent to Round Island which will create about 200 acres of sand beach and marsh habitat.
The $8 million sand berm contract is being funded as part of the $21 million project from Round Two of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund awarded to Mississippi and announced by Governor Phil Bryant in November of 2014. NFWF’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund was created as part of the settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice, BP, and Transocean to resolve certain criminal charges against both companies in relation to the spill. Under the allocation formula and other provisions contained in the plea agreements, a total of $356 million will be paid into the Gulf Fund over a five year period for conservation projects in the state of Mississippi.
The Round Island project is part of NFWF’s Utilization of Dredge Material for Marsh Restoration Project which identifies Beneficial Use (BU) material from dredging activities and then finds suitable sites to receive that BU material to restore marsh in areas that have seen degradation over the past decades and especially where affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The overall project includes plans for sites in all three coastal counties.
“This type of marsh will provide many benefits to Mississippi and the Gulf. Salt marshes can function as water and air purifiers, as well as significantly add to the food chain by producing biomass. From a fish and wildlife perspective, the marsh will be an ideal habitat for many aquatic species, which should please fishermen. Also, migratory birds and shorebirds will be able to use it for nesting and feeding. Much like the barrier islands, the increased acreage adjacent to Round Island will also help to mitigate the effect of future storms on Mississippi's mainland. We are pleased to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Marine Resources to move this project forward,” said Gary Rikard, MDEQ Executive Director.
A unique situation developed in the Mississippi Sound which presented a perfect opportunity for Mississippi to increase the marsh acreage adjacent to Round Island. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers added the Port of Pascagoula to its list of sites to be dredged, and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources had previously obtained the appropriate permits for construction adjacent to Round Island. Through a Memorandum of Understanding the state, local and federal agencies designed a plan for MDEQ, with oversight aid from MDMR, to construct a protective berm adjacent to Round Island, within the boundaries of the MDMR permit. Once the berm is in place, the Corps of Engineers will issue a work order to its contractor for dredging in the Pascagoula Channel.
MDEQ recently conducted a competitive bidding process and awarded a construction contract to Orion Construction. Orion Construction, L.P. has begun mobilization of its equipment into the Pascagoula area and will begin work on the site later this week to create the berm.
MDMR cautions that construction activity in the area may cause issues for boaters: "As the weather gets warmer, more people will be out on the water in boats, kayaks and other watercraft," said Keith Davis, Marine Patrol chief for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. "We are asking that boaters be especially vigilant in the area near Round Island during this project. There will be more equipment and people working there; so boaters need to be mindful of that and, if possible, choose another area for boating."
The berm project is slated for completion near the end of August. For information about this and other restoration efforts in Mississippi, access www.restore.ms.
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