Saving The Gulf Beaches

CBS News Up To The Minute is focusing on local news with its daily "Eye On:" segment. At :40 past the hour, we will tell the stories that are not being told on any other network broadcast, straight from the CBS News affiliates and journalists who are covering them. Today's Eye On: New Orleans comes from our affiliate, WWL-TV.

Memorial Day on Biloxi Beach. This is where Katrina's deadly storm surge collided with the land. And even though it looks beautiful now, the locals remember what Katrina did to their beloved beaches.

"I came down here, and it was devastated," remembered Chad Martin, a Biloxi resident. "It looked like an earthquake hit here. The roads were all broken, you couldn't even drive down here."

"It was a mess," Sabrina Mosely said. "It's taken a while, but things are coming back to normal."

Tons of debris from destroyed homes and buildings got swept onto the beach when the storm surge receeded.

For months, giant sifting machines have tried to rake the debris out of the sand.

"We've completed a couple of debris projects," explained Bobby Weaver, Harrison County Sand Beach Director. "One got the top layer of debris off. The second one was to do a screening project where we went down 12 inches and screened the entire beach area."

Fifty thousand cubic yards of junk have been cleared from the beach so far. But only five small sections of beach are open to the public and those have a warning: Don't go in the water.

Even though the sections that are open look nice, officials say there's a danger out there: debris that's below the water, mixed in with the sand. And when they remove debris from the water, more just washes up to take it's place.

"Every time we get a little strong wind, even from the south, south-east, it pushes that debris back onto the beach," said Weaver. "It's a constant effort to try to get the debris off the sand.

Ron Snider, who is in the army, helped with the beach cleanup. He's seen the mess that's out there.

What's out in the water that people can't see?

"Refrigerators, parts of the houses, dishwashers, beds, poles, pieces of cars, parts of the amusement center that used to be down the road," recalled Snider. "We found a couple of things that used to be rides that the kids rode on. I found a filing cabinet. A little bit of everything. Every thing you would see in your house."

But officials hope the Coast Guard will soon begin cleaning up submerged debris all the way out to four miles from the beach. And they hope that within a few months, all 26 miles of the Mississippi coast's crown jewel will sparkle again.
by Mike Ross