Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich did a show-and-tell Wednesday at the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce’s Breakfast with the Mayor, showing photos of the seawall and telling how science could keep sand from blowing on Beach Boulevard.
“It’s easy,” he said. “Lower the profile.”
He said the “littoral drift” of sand from east to west, and the strong winds that blow on the Coast, combine to move the sand from the beach onto the adjacent road.
In some places, sand covers all but two of the nine steps of the seawall. Gilich proposes lowering the level of the man-made sand beach to uncover four steps. That would still maintain a wide beach, he said, but would keep the sand where it belongs and not piling up on U.S. 90 every windy day.
Gilich calculates it costs Harrison County $1 million a year just for sand replenishment, in addition to the expense of equipment and staff to scoop up and haul the sand off the road. He said Biloxi has spent almost $500,000 to remove sand from U.S. 90 in the two years since he took office. He has consulted experts and plans to meet with the supervisors and other officials to come up with a plan, he said.
Exposing more of the seawall would create an added opportunity of widening the concrete walkway for locals and tourists, Gilich told the crowd who came to hear his report at Edgewater Mall.
“As a kid, I never saw sand on the highway,” said Gilich, who has made it his mission to return the best of what was Old Biloxi.
According to a Biloxi Chamber report, the seawall was built in 1927 to protect the Coast from the eroding effects of hurricanes. Sand was dredged in 1950 from the Mississippi Sound to create the beach as additional protection from hurricanes, and had the added bonus for tourism.
A 2007 FEMA report said the seawall survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005 with little damage.
“The structural purpose of the seawall is to protect the coastal roads from erosion,” the report said. “The walls were very successful in accomplishing this purpose.”
Gilich covered a variety of other topics at Wednesday’s breakfast:
▪ Infrastructure: “Fifty-five miles of streets were milled up at one time,” he said. By Aug. 31, all streets east of Lee Street will be paved, he said. “Not finished but paved.” In an effort to speed up work, precast drain boxes may be used instead of pouring them in place. Only 200 boxes have been completed, with 944 still to go, he said, and $146 million of the $344 million infrastructure project is complete.
▪ Conference USA: The college baseball tournament begins Wednesday at MGM Park and will be telecast on national networks. The tourney will fill hotel rooms and boost sales tax for Biloxi, Gilich said.
▪ Homelessness: “Every city has this as an issue,” he said, and Biloxi has 400 homeless veterans, families and those with addiction issues. Gilich proposes turning the former Beauvoir Elementary into a homeless-assessment center and temporary shelter. The City Council plans a workshop on the proposal at 11 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall.