Harrison County

Those concrete pipes on Mississippi Coast beaches are about to get a makeover

Three new waves will be rolling into to the beach in Biloxi by next summer, Phil Bryant announced Tuesday, in what he said could be a $20-$40 million project to improve the appearance of the beach.

Setting aside the election for a short time Tuesday afternoon, the governor unveiled the architectural designs for a system of beach storm water outfalls.

Designed by Dale Partners Architects and Covington Engineering, these wave-shaped gray and tan concrete structures will extend out into the water. Bryant said they will replace the current metal and concrete drains that carry storm water runoff across the beach.

How it works

The first phase will build three concrete structures the beach in Biloxi , said Gen. Joe Spraggins, executive director of the Department of Marine Resources. One will be near the Interstate 110 loop, and two others will go between The Blind Tiger and the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor.

Ultimately 250 of these waves could replace and consolidate the current 300 old pipes, he said.

Harrison County Supervisor Angel Middleton, who also is a beach vendor on the Coast, said visitors always ask about the pipes and whether they are dumping unclean water into the Mississippi Sound.

The new concrete boxes will be much larger than the current pipes and can be cleaned out, Spraggins said. They don’t have filters, he said, but that is something that may be added in the next phase.

He expects to go out for bid within 30 days, he said, and have the first three built by next summer.

DMR, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and Mississippi Development Authority are working together on the wave, Spraggins said. While the project can’t take pipes away from the road, he said, they can be consolidated with a junction box into a culvert so that fewer pipes are stretching across the beach.

The waves will be paid for with funds from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA, for oil leases in federal water off the coast.

Mississippi’s federal Congressional delegation was able to get a much larger share of the GOMESA funds this year, Bryant said, bringing more than $27 million to South Mississippi.

“Enough to do some good,” he said.

Two plans

Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has worked for more than a year to find ways to improve the outflows and water quality on South Mississippi beaches.

In 2017, MDEQ held a design challenge to find the best ideas. All three winning projects replace box culverts with constructed wetland designs, said Chris Wells, chief of staff and acting director of the Office of Restoration at MDEQ.

It is part of MDEQ’s water quality improvement project, funded with RESTORE Act money from BP oil spill fines, and will take much longer than building the waves. Funding recently was improved, and now MDEQ is identifying the sites where the pilot projects should take place, he said.

“We want to be good stewards of the money,” Wells said, and that includes finding the right sites. Engineers will then design the projects to fit the sites before the work goes out to bid.

That process can take more than a year, he said. Once built, the projects will be monitored to see how they work and what make changes may be necessary, he said, before additional projects are built.

Working together

Wells said the MDEQ program and the new wave outfalls announced by Bryant are related and complementary programs that address outflows in various ways. At some point, he said, elements from both projects could be combined as the pilot programs show what works.

The Coast has different types of outflows. “Some of them have greater impact on quality than others, he said.

In the last couple of weeks, MDEQ has begun water quality sampling in preparation for the pilot projects, and he said the program will provide new equipment to help identify and trace sources of pollution.

When MDEQ announces beach advisories for high bacteria levels, “It doesn’t look for where that bacteria may have come from,” he said. New technology will provide source testing at the DNA level to determine if the bacteria is from wildlife, pets or humans so that faulty equipment or other causes can be fixed to improve water quality, he said.

Bryant makes BP appointments

Bryant also announced his three appointments to the Gulf Coast Restoration Advisory Board that will recommend how BP money will be spent in South Mississippi.

In a special session in August, the Legislature voted that 75 percent of the $750 million paid by BP for economic damages should be spent in the six Coast counties.

He appointed Moses Feagin, chief financial officer of Mississippi Power, Col. Becky Montgomery Jenner, U.S. Army retired, and Ashley Edwards, executive director of the Gulf Coast Business Council, to be the chairman of the board.

Bryant said he chose the three for their unique experiences in life. Feagin was an easy choice to look after the money, he said, Edwards for being an impressive young leader on the Coast and Jenner for her operational skills in deploying 30,000 troops.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn will each make two appointments to the advisory board.