There’s no telling how this small pile of sand jutting out of the Gulf of Mexico has evolved over the last few centuries. But Hurrican Camille split the island into two and it became know as East Ship and West Ship Islands.

That’s currently changing again thanks to the Gulf restoration project called the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program funded after Hurricane Katrina. After five years of study and planning this massive endeavor has begun and dredges are about to undertake the task of pumping over thirteen million cubic yards of sand into the three mile wide cut between the two halves of the island. An additional estimated seven million cubic yards more will be dredged onto the northern shore of what is now West Ship and the southern shore of East Ship. After two years of dredging (which should be completed by the end of 2013) Ship Island will be whole again and should look about like ti did in 1917 according to Dan Brown who is the superintendent of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The project is estimated to cost around $300,000,000.00. Of course this is a Federal project so don’t be surprised if costs and time run over the projections.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of the project. Plans are get to the Camille Cut in October 2012 and East Ship in April 2013. Evenutally vegetation will be placed to help create dunes. Additionally somewhere around 1500 tons of rubble placed around Fort Massachusetts in the 1950s to stop sand erosion along with some steel barges and other debris will be removed. This was a failed attempt to prevent erosion thought to be a great idea in the day but now having proved to be just the opposite.

In years gone by millions of yards of sand were pumped from the Pascagoula Ship Channel and discarded in less than ideal locations. Had this sand been placed in an area that the currents could have taken it where needed much of this damage to Ship Island may have been prevented. But from the lessons of yesteryear hopes rise that future dredging might be planned and performed in such a way to restore the beaches of Ship Island as well as other similar barrier islands which serve as a bumper in storms like Hurricanes Camille and Katrina.