Jackson County

Dangerous ‘Quicksand Island’ near Pascagoula may be getting safer soon

State agencies are warning boaters to stay off this new island altogether. They call it Round Island. It is near what the Coast knows as Round Island, but it is created with material dredged from the nearby Pascagoula Channel.
State agencies are warning boaters to stay off this new island altogether. They call it Round Island. It is near what the Coast knows as Round Island, but it is created with material dredged from the nearby Pascagoula Channel. File

Remember “Quicksand Island” — the island they warned you to avoid off Pascagoula?

It’s actually named Round Island and it’s still not quite ready for boaters, kayakers and such, but it is getting closer to becoming a recreational paradise.

The island, which essentially is made of dredge spoils from the Pascagoula shipping channel, soon will be graded and shaped and the berms will be covered with plants, said Chris Wells of the Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Restoration.

“It’s still under construction and we’re asking folks to stay off it until we’re done,” he said. “It’s really been pretty exciting. The hurricane, though it was Category 1 last summer, it was the perfect storm to test it. It was more or less a direct hit on Round Island and it weathered that storm perfectly.”

Eventually, once the island has dried out and the danger of people sinking into the quicksand-like dredge material has passed, the island will be open to the public.

A video of thrown rocks sinking into the dark sand was one of the Sun Herald’s most popular videos of 2017.

Round Island, which is made of dredge spoils from the Pascagoula shipping channel, has a quicksand interior in 2017. But it will eventually dry out and be open to the public, officials say.

“I can’t say for sure what that will look like but I think the intent will be for recreational use,” Wells said. “At least for kayaking and fishing. It’s so close to Pascagoula, you can kayak out to it. The interior will be a marsh to provide fishing.”

In the meantime, planning will begin for the Living Shoreline Demonstration Project with $2.2 million from the Deepwater Horizon RESTORE Act that is dividing up the federal civil penalties paid by BP. Eventually, the goal is to find new approaches to protect marshes.

“It’s to do some engineering and design for some living shoreline protections, to allow us to experiment with different approaches,” he said. “And to protect the investment we’ve made into Round Island.”

They hope to come up with ideas and technology that can be used to save other marshes. Another project at the opposite end of the Mississippi Sound is attempting to protect Heron Bay, which was in danger of disappearing.

The Island that is under construction off the mainland of Pascagoula has white sand beaches, but a soft interior. The state is warning boaters away. See how close it is to Pascagoula. Karen Nelson/Sun Herald klnelson@sunherald.com

The island already has kept tons of dredge spoils out of landfills and the open sea, to common places used to dispose of that material, he said. And it has become a nesting ground for thousands of birds, at least one species not seen in Mississippi since the 1960s.

“It’s really kind of cool that we built this island and the first chance they had, the birds were out there nesting on it,” he said.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton

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