A Dauphin Island berm rebuilding project would have cost
an estimated $4 million, FEMA officials said as they deny island's
request. Agency says there's not enough beach left on west end to
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has decided not to fund
rebuilding of a sand berm on the west end of Dauphin Island after
it was wiped out by Hurricane Gustav this year, a federal official
The berm was built along three miles of the west end beach, where
houses on stilts line the Gulf of Mexico. It was built in 2007 at
a cost of $3.6 million in an attempt to protect the Town of Dauphin
Island's infrastructure along Bienville Boulevard. The berm was
wiped away by Gustav's storm surge on Sept. 1, followed by more
wave damage to the beach from Hurricane Ike on Sept. 13.
Mike Moore, FEMA disaster coordinator for Alabama, said officials
considered a request by the Town of Dauphin Island to rebuild the
berm, but storms heavily damaged that part of the beach. Officials
determined that there wasn't enough beachfront remaining between
the waterline and the houses to rebuild.
"The beach on which the berm had been located no longer existed
along much of the area," Moore said. "While FEMA will place an emergency
protective berm on the beach, we won't replace the beach because
it is private."
Much of the west end beach has been owned by the Dauphin Island
Property Owners Association since the 1950s. Members of the association
voted last year to make the beach public, but two property owners
filed a lawsuit to block the move. That case is scheduled to go
before a Circuit Court judge this month.
Dauphin Island town officials have until Jan. 10 to appeal the decision
on the berm, Moore said, and any appeal would be considered by senior
A berm rebuilding project would have cost an estimated $4 million,
FEMA officials said.
The first berm on the island was built in 2000 at a cost of $1 million.
It was destroyed by Tropical Storm Isidore in 2002.
Mayor Jeff Collier said the Town Council will have to decide whether
to appeal the decision. Collier said he thinks the town should attempt
to have the decision overturned. Collier said the reason for the
denial - erosion of the beach - comes as no surprise to Dauphin
Island leaders. "That's why we've been raising the red flag for
the past few years, knowing this situation was getting worse," Collier
In October, island leaders announced plans to pursue restoration
of the island's east end where a few hundred feet of beach has disappeared
in recent decades. A preliminary report said the project could cost
up to $12.8 million.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit by the Property Owners Association blaming
west end beach erosion on the U.S. Corps of Engineers' dredging
practices in the Mobile Bay ship channel has been pending in federal
court since 2000. One outcome of an ongoing settlement in that case
could be a beach renourishment project on the west end.