2013 WEDA Environmental Excellence Award Deer Island Restoration Project

February 28, 2013

Deer Island is a 3.5-mile long spindle-shaped island located just off the coast of Biloxi, Mississippi. The island is owned by the State of Mississippi and is part of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) Coastal Preserves Program. One of the aims of the MDMR program is to preserve and restore Mississippi’s coastal ecosystems to perpetuate their natural characteristics, features, ecological integrity, social, economic, and aesthetic values for future benefit. As one of the most important properties in the Coastal Preserves Program, the restoration of Deer Island has received considerable interest. The Deer Island Restoration Project is part of an on-going, multiple-project, joint effort by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Mobile District, the MDMR, and local environmental groups to restore Deer Island to its 1850’s footprint.

Though much of Deer Island endured through catastrophic storm events over the last century including Hurricanes Camille, Ivan, and Katrina, the storms destroyed forested areas, significantly eroded the sandy shoreline, and left elevations too low to support marsh vegetation. The primary objective of the Deer Island Restoration Project was the restoration of marsh along the Mississippi coast for environmental benefit. Through creative thinking, innovative design concepts, and collaborative partnering, the USACE, MDMR, and local stakeholders, also identified several other objectives for the project.  Together, the project team and stakeholders developed a plan that would deliver economic and social benefits as well.

The Deer Island Restoration Project included the filling of the west end breach, the restoration of the southern shoreline, and strategic vegetation plantings. Approximately 1.95 cubic yards of hydraulically-dredged material from a nearby borrow site were utilized to fill the west end breach and restore the southern shoreline. Over 300,000 plants were planted on the island and, currently, another 325,000 plants are being planted. Importantly, the project included the construction of a 1 million cubic yard capacity lagoon specifically designed for the beneficial use placement of fine-grained dredged material from Federally-authorized navigation channels. 170,000 cubic yards of dredged material were placed in the lagoon in October 2011.

The principles and practices used for the Deer Island Restoration Project provide significant environmental benefits for the region, as well as protection for the City of Biloxi from storm events, recreation opportunities for people, and hard-to-come-by economically feasible
and environmentally acceptable beneficial use opportunities for dredged material. The project is a credit to the USACE Mobile District, the MDMR, and the stakeholders whose efforts yielded such diverse and important benefits.

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