DMR hopes to have waterways clear of Katrina debris by next year

Published 6:12 pm Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Authorities hope to have most of the waterways in south Mississippi clear of Hurricane Katrina debris by the end of the year, more than two years after the deadly storm pummeled the Gulf Coast.

Workers with the state Department of Marine Resources have already pulled more than 213,000 cubic yards of debris from waters on the Mississippi coast, according to the agency. About 90,000 cubic yards of debris was removed from Hancock County and 70,000 cubic yards from Harrison County.

The rubble in the water posed a serious threat to boaters, who had to navigate around sunken shrimp boats and other obstacles.

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Irwin Jackson, manager of the derelict-vessel program for the Department of Marine Resources, said nearly a dozen sunken shrimp boats were broken up and hauled out of the Industrial Canal. The canal has been used during bad weather as a shelter for shrimp boats for years, but even its high banks could not protect many vessels from Katrina’s massive storm surge and blistering winds.

Three boats that were pulled from the canal were used them to help restore inshore fishing reefs, officials said.

“We had to pay out of a different pot of state money to have the hulls cleaned,” Jackson said, “to make sure they were environmentally safe before we could use them for fishing reefs.”

Jackson said two sunken boats remain in the canal. Most sunken vessels are broken into small pieces before they are hauled away.

The Department of Marine Resources has not given an exact date for their removal, but Jackson expects to have the canal cleaned by year’s end.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has paid about $177 million to help clean some 365 square miles Mississippi’s coastal and inland waterways.

“We still have a good bit of work to do, but we’ve made a lot of progress,” Jackson said.