Monitoring Network Design to Assess Potential Water-Quality Improvements Associated with the Mississippi Coastal Improvement Program in the Mississippi Sound

Author(s): Rebich, R.; Wilson, D.; Runner, M.

The Mississippi barrier islands have undergone extensive changes in their formations over the past several decades primarily due to wind erosion and storm surge from hurricanes. In 1969 during Hurricane Camille, a “cut” formed through Ship Island bisecting it into what is known today as East and West Ship Islands. In addition, a tremendous amount of damage and erosion occurred on the two islands and to the shoreline of the Mississippi coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In 2009, the Mississippi Coastal Improvement Program (MSCIP) was enacted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE), in conjunction with other Federal and State partners, with the purpose of reducing future storm damage along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. MSCIP includes construction projects along the shoreline of Mississippi as well as major restoration efforts associated with the barrier islands. One such project is to restore Ship Island by filling in the “cut” (also known as “Camille Cut”) between East and West Ship Islands thus creating one island again. The restoration effort to close Camille Cut and recreate a singular Ship Island could cause shifts in water quality and aquatic habitat in the vicinity of Ship Island and other areas within the Mississippi Sound. Of particular interest will be the potential increase in turbidity and suspended sediments during the construction phase. Adaptive management planning associated with MSCIP included establishment of a long-term monitoring network design to collect water-quality data to be used as indicators of change for comparison to biological response variables also collected during the study period, and to be used as input for modeling of the Mississippi Sound system to document longer-term change in response to restoration activities in the future. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the COE-Mobile District, has implemented a water-quality monitoring network design in the Mississippi Sound to help achieve programmatic and adaptive management goals of MSCIP. Specifically, two locations near Ship Island have been outfitted to continuously monitor specific conductance (salinity), temperature, dissolved oxygen and turbidity. Nine locations located near Ship Island and near the remaining barrier islands will be visited eight times per year, and during each visit, the same water quality parameters are measured and discrete water quality are collected for nutrient and sediment analysis. This project is a 5-year project to include 1 year of pre-construction, 2 years of construction, and 2 years of post-construction data collection.
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