The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Restoration received international honor at the 35th PIANC World Congress for its work on the Hancock County Marsh and Living Shoreline Project.

PIANC is the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure and awards a variety of honors at its annual congress, including the Working with Nature Award. MDEQ was awarded second place worldwide for its efforts to protect and restore the Hancock County Coastal Preserve, the largest contiguous salt marsh in Mississippi.

“Our Office of Restoration works tirelessly on projects that ensure purposeful restoration for Mississippi’s Coast and it is an honor to have one of our projects recognized on an international scale,” said MDEQ Executive Director Chris Wells. “It is MDEQ’s mission is to conserve and improve our environment while fostering wise economic growth. The Hancock County Marsh and Living Shoreline Project is a great example of one way we execute our mission through a non-regulatory program.”

Working with Nature, according to PIANC, is an international initiative to promote a proactive, integrated approach to sustainable navigation infrastructure projects that delivers mutually beneficial, ‘win-win’ solutions.

The first phases of the Mississippi project involved the construction of six miles of breakwaters to create a decrease in wave energy and protect the marsh complex.

“You can actually see the decrease in wave energy coming from the Mississippi Sound into the marsh,” said Valerie Alley, Program Management Division Chief for MDEQ’s Office of Restoration. “That decrease in wave energy reduces erosion which allows the marsh to stay in place or even expand. These actions are vital to building resiliency in coasts, especially through storm events.”

The project also included a 46-acre oyster reef constructed with limestone cultch in Heron Bay, providing a vital habitat for oysters. The fifth phase includes constructing and reconstructing new marsh. A 46-acre marsh was constructed making beneficial use of dredged material from Port Bienville and the Pearl River.

The Hancock County Marsh and Living Shoreline Project is currently in the early stages of phase six, which will construct approximately two more miles of living shoreline. Funding for this project included Natural Resource Damages and RESTORE Act funding totaling $65.5 million. For a glimpse of the Hancock County Marsh and Living Shoreline Project, click here to watch an informational video.

MDEQ’s Office of Restoration leads the state’s restoration efforts resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The office uses a comprehensive approach to restoration integrating projects and leveraging funding sources to implement restoration projects that will restore and enhance the Gulf Coast’s natural resources.