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In Mississippi, a berm of last resort

Gulf Oil Spill

PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. -- If an oil slick hits here on the pristine vacation beaches of coastal Mississippi, Ronnie Davis is the last line of defense.

He's the Harrison County employee who is driving the grader down this white sand beach, building 2- to 3-foot sand berms at the water's edge.

Building oil berms
Jim Seda / msnbc.com A woman talks on her cell phone asŠa Harrison CountyŠgrader operator moves the sand berm designed keep oil off the beach closer to the water in Gulfport, Miss., onŠWednesday.

There's only so much boom the state and federal government can deploy, and looking out from the beaches here, it's clear that there is a lot more ocean than there is boom out there. So for this tourist area, Davis and his grader are Plan B.

If the dome that BP plans to lower over the oil leak, the relief drilling, the absorbent booms and the containment booms don't do the trick, local authorities hope the berms will keep the goo offŠthe beach.

Davis says the stretch of beach he is working is about 26 miles long. He already has built a berm for about half of that distance, but now he's mowing it down and moving the sand berm closer to the water's edge. He still hopes to protect the entire stretch of beach, assuming time allows. Just in case.

Building oil berms Stan Honda / AFP - Getty Images Harrison County officials hope this sand berm in Pass Christian eventually will protect a 26-mile stretch of county beaches fromŠoil.ŠŠ